Now is the Time to Plant Bluebonnets – Oct/Nov

  •  bluebonnets

Taking pictures of kids and grandkids in a blanketed field of bluebonnets has become a favorite annual springtime event for most families in Texas. Actually, the state flower provides a flattering background of blue for all generations – young, old and in-between. It is also the perfect backdrop for pics of our frolicking pets.

When I was a child, my mother and grandmother practiced this ritual. We usually trekked out to Mountain Creek Lake in far west Dallas and there, my two sisters and I would be sat in a field of flowers, usually adorned in frilly Easter petticoats. Most memorable to me of these occasions would be my mom scolding us when we’d reach down and innocently pick a flower or two. Heaven forbid we pick the state flower of Texas! It was thought by my family for years that it was “against the law” to pick bluebonnets, but I’ve discovered that it isn’t, and probably never was, so. This rumor was so rampant that in 2002 the Texas Department of Public Safety actually published a press release explaining there is no such law! However, be warned that if you come across the perfect picture location, you need to keep in mind it is against the law to trespass on private property. It is also against the law to cause damage to (dig up) public property. Not to worry. Last year I saw plenty of bluebonnets at nurseries and, from two very healthy plants I purchased, I have seed to share. Just send me a note with your mailing address via comment below (which I will not publish) and I’ll be happy to send some to you. This leads me to the title of my post – Now (October/November) is the time to plant bluebonnets. As with most wildflower species, fall is the time to sow bluebonnets in order to enjoy their color come spring.

More bluebonnets

Once established, bluebonnets are prolific bloomers. These above bloomed from March – June.

Although native to Texas, bluebonnets can be grown in Zones 2 – 10. They enjoy part to full sun, are drought tolerant and prefer slightly alkaline soil. Unfortunately, they can be a tad ornery when it comes to germinating. You see, their seed coat is quite hard; impenetrable until optimal growing conditions are present. Scarifying, or sanding, bluebonnet seeds assists them with germinating in flower beds that will be manually maintained (watered) and groomed (weeded). You’ll recall my favorite vine, the moonflower vine, requires its seed to be scarified for best germinating results as well. If you buy your bluebonnet seed in a commercial packet, you may find they are already scarified – just check the label. Once a bluebonnet seed successfully germinates, the plant will enjoy slow, steady growth throughout the cooler temperatures of winter; eventually setting blooms in the springtime for our picture-taking pleasure. Another bonus to growing bluebonnets in your beds is, as part of the legume family, they actually place nitrogen back into the soil. What a wonderful combination – flowers and fertilization!

bluebonnet seeds

Before I go on, let me say that there are times during my research of a topic that I come across a website that simply says it all and says it well. This is one of those times. To read one of the best articles I’ve found regarding bluebonnets, including better explaining the above, please follow the link below. –And afterwards, I hope you come back and take advantage of my free offer to spread a little bluebonnet seed now so you can enjoy a bit of Texas in your landscape next spring!

Until next time,



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Ornamental Peppers


Photo above compliments of “<a href=””>Piment fort” by Atilin” title=”User:Atilin”>Atilin – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons.

One of my latest posts was about incorporating Crossandra (or Firecracker Plant) into your fall décor. Today, I’d like to give you another idea to consider in addition to, or, instead of, using mums to give the ambience of autumn around your home.
Ornamental peppers.

Most ornamental peppers grow fruit naturally in the vibrant red, orange and yellow hues we associate with fall. Oftentimes, the fruit will transition from one color to the next as it matures, giving us a nice change of scenery with each plant. In addition to the traditional green of the leaves and fall colors of the peppers, shades of purple can be found as well in the fruit and in some varieties, the leaves are also tinged purple. Personally, I think the purple-hued plants look great with white and gray brick homes or as live decorations for Halloween.

Ornamental Purple Peppers

Photo above compliments of

There are a couple of differences between ornamental peppers (Capsicum annum) and those grown for food purposes. First of all, while ornamental peppers can be eaten, they are not bred for taste and will either be far too hot to enjoy or unpalatable in another way. Also, because ornamentals are grown for non-edible reasons, it is very possible systemic pesticides/agents may be used in their development – something which we hope is highly monitored or preferably not used at all on our pepper plants used for produce. Secondly, ornamental peppers are bred to produce “bunches” of fruit in an upright manner so that the peppers are much more visible. Non-ornamentals produce their fruit hanging downward and it is typically dotted throughout the plant.

I will take this opportunity to say that while this post is about incorporating ornamental peppers into our landscape, I have found the brightly colored fruits of red jalapenos, yellow bananas, purple bells and orange habaneros beautifully dot the greenery within my vegetable garden during summer and early fall.  Food is certainly pretty, too!

Similarities of ornamentals and garden peppers fall within their basic behavior and care. Pepper plants in general enjoy lots of sun, warm weather and good soil drainage. I read that a good rule of thumb is to water your pepper plant thoroughly once a week unless you’ve experienced rain – and then you should skip until a week has passed without precipitation. The soil should become dry between waterings.  And, if you plan to bring your ornamental pepper indoors or chose to enjoy it there from the beginning, I would see that it is placed near a bright sunny window facing south or west. Northeasterly windows may prove to be too cool and not allow enough direct sunshine.  After the outdoor season has passed and/or the fruit has dried on your indoor plants, it is best to start anew next year. Ornamentals may not bloom a second year and edible pepper plants planted in ground are pretty much considered annuals unless you live in Mexico or further south.

Ornamental Peppers

Ornamental Peppers

So, while I am using Crossandra to “autumn-ize” our part shade, northern facing front yard this fall season, I am using both rich mums and ornamental peppers on my southern patio to give the ambience of fall there. The peppers receive an abundance of sunshine and if I’m careful, they will not get overwatered in the airy coconut fiber-lined basket. I kindof like the look of hot peppers under the Texas stars . . . fitting it seems!

Until next time,

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Another Great Pumpkin Story

Originally Posted 10/25/2012

Welcome Great Pumpkin

Pumpkins on a doorstep, along flowerbeds and in autumn scenes provide an instant fall feel to any yard or landscape come September and October. (Even when it is 87 degrees outside as it is today in North Texas!) I always buy two to three pumpkins around this time of year to place them in a cluster near my flowerbed of golden lantana. The combination is magic! I mentioned to my boyfriend recently that he needed a pumpkin or two in his front yard to provide a little autumn spice to his house. Being an avid gardener and self-proclaimed amateur landscape architect like myself, he didn’t take too well to having someone else offer suggestions for HIS yard!

Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t disrespectful, he just stated he had other plans for his fall decor. I let it drop, but I continued to browse the pumpkin patches and outdoor displays at the local grocery stores – just in case the perfect pumpkin appeared! One day last week, I was making a stop at the grocery store before heading over to my boyfriend’s. I love to use the little mini-rolling grocery carts as they are much easier for my 5 foot 1 inch, 50 year old body to maneuver. I spied one of the small carts out in the parking lot on the way into the store and grabbed it. As I was rolling up to the entrance of the grocery store, I saw three huge cartons filled with pumpkins just to the left of the doorway. My cart went into auto-pilot, veering toward the orange gourds.

I was viewing them from a distance, as I knew the closer I got the more likely I’d buy one or two and I knew my boyfriend wasn’t too keen on having them in his yard – not yet anyway – as he hadn’t laid out his plan. As I looked from a distance, out of the corner of my eye I saw a young man rounding up errant carts and lining them up for new customers. He saw me peering at the pumpkins and noticed I was deep in thought. He loudly spoke in my direction, “Do you want a pumpkin?” I jolted from my thoughts, looked over at him and discovered he was an employee of the store with Down Syndrome. He had the most excited expression on his face. He asked me again, “Do you want a pumpkin?” I told him I didn’t know, that I was really just looking. He came over and said, “Don’t worry, I will find you the biggest pumpkin!” and he proceeded to move dozens of pumpkins out of the huge box. I stood there watching as he sweated and worked to find the biggest pumpkin. I told him several times not to bother looking further, that the one he just had in his hand was fine. Nope, he continued to dig in the box. At last, he came to a gargantuan pumpkin near the bottom of the box. He worked his arms one way, then another, and then climbed into the box to get to the giant pumpkin. Once he had a good grasp on it, he picked it up and heaved it into my basket. He then very proudly and with a brilliant smile on his face proclaimed, “I found THE biggest pumpkin for you!” I thanked him with mutual tears of joy in my eyes and rolled into the store. Thank goodness all I truly needed to pick up was a loaf of bread and a half gallon of milk. There literally was no room for anything more in my basket and I could barely push the cart as it was! In fact, one little boy that encountered me in the store pointed and exclaimed, “Look mom, it’s The Great Pumpkin.”

Indeed it is . . . and it sits magnificently in my boyfriend’s front yard for all to see!

Until next time,


The Great Pumpkin of 2012

The Great Pumpkin of 2012!

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Firecrackers in Fall

Last year I came across the perfect plant for an imperfect location in my newly acquired front yard.

My previous home was red brick with a southern front exposure of almost full sun – which made for a relatively easy canvass to select and grow summer annuals and perennials within.  My new (husband’s) home is of tannish-terracotta brick with a northern exposure of mostly shade.  The front landscape of my newly acquired home was a bit bland and needed a little pop of color here and there.  It was difficult finding a vibrant blooming annual or perennial that thrived in the Texas ambient heat but preferred a moist, mostly shady area.

In my search, I was very fortunate to have come across the Firecracker Plant, or Crossandra infundibuliformis, at a local nurseryI was entranced by the color of the plant and knew it would beautifully accent the palette of our brick.   Not only did this shrubby annual (or evergreen perennial in Zones 10 and warmer) possess bright, crisp orange blooms, it also showcased deep green, glistening leaves.  Would it survive the environment of my front yard?  Looking between the leaves, I found the instruction tag and noted Firecracker Plants enjoy a little sunshine, but benefit being shaded from the mid-day Texas sun.  The tag also stated they enjoy moist (but not soggy) roots.  Perfect!


As you can see in my photos above, I planted mine last year in early summer on either side of our mailbox.  The location received a slight bit of morning sun on one side and a slight bit of afternoon sun on the other.  During mid-day, the location was mostly shaded.  Due to the heavy shade, the soil in the area naturally stayed moist but not soggy. And since Crossandra is a tropical (think humid rainforest canopy) the protected mailbox area was the ideal spot indeed for it to thrive.

While I highly recommend the use of Crossandra to warm up your landscape anytime from spring through frost, I think now is a perfect time to incorporate this fall-colored plant in your autumn plantings and decorations if you haven’t already.   Last week I saw Crossandra available in a few of the local nurseries and I think its marmalade color and demeanor (long-lasting blooms) are very fitting for the Halloween & Thanksgiving seasons.   You could incorporate them in with the beautiful colors of mums or use them as an alternative to mums this year.  If you wanted to plant a few in your landscape now, Crossandra probably could withstand a little more (distant) sunshine in October than it could during summer months.   It would also be an ideal specimen plant to showcase in a pretty container on a doorstep or patio.  Probably the best bonus with purchasing a “Fall Firecracker” now is that when the temperatures begin to drop consistently below 55 degrees, you can transplant or move your pots indoors to a bright window and enjoy the warmth of this blooming tropical all winter long.

Crossandra in Office Space

Crossandra in Office Space

As usual, when I begin to research and explore specifics about plants, new and familiar, I often find tidbits of interesting information and today’s post is no different. The reason Crossandra was given the common name Firecracker Plant is not because of its fiery color, but because its seed pods “explode” when they are ready to disperse.  You may or may not recall from my former post that this is the same method the Dwarf Mexican Petunia disperses its seeds – and what do you know – although they look nothing alike, these two plants are indeed related!

I hope you find a special spot in your landscape or home to enjoy a few Fall Firecrackers this season.

Until next time,




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The Sounds of Fall

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

I would venture to say the vast majority of us who are so very fortunate to have the gift of sight use this sense the most when it comes to admiring nature. We see beautiful blooms, brilliant leaves, expansive grass fields, gorgeous birds, inviting springs, immense oceans, rare wildlife sightings and much, much more. When we see something quite rare, we grasp for our cameras or cell phones these days in an attempt to capture the sight forever in a still photograph or perhaps a short video. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to hold onto and view a stunning scene over and again. In fact, I grab for my cell phone often to snap pictures to post on this very blog in particular.

Today I wish to speak about another sense we humans possess and use when it comes to enjoying nature – hearing. What brought this blog post to mind was a recent walk I took one morning while at work. I work in a suburban area and had reason to walk over a couple of blocks or so to secure some pastries from a corner bakery for a meeting we were having that day. It was a particularly damp and foggy October morning – not terribly cool, though. As I walked next to a steady stream of traffic, there opened up a long break in the automobiles which allowed me to leisurely walk across the three lane street. Before I entered the bakery, I heard slight popping noises from above. The lack of automobiles and the heavy fog seemed to accentuate the noise. As I looked around, I thought it had suddenly begun to rain, but it had not. I stopped a moment and discovered the noise was the sound of the dense fog landing on the crisp, fall leaves of maple trees overhead. It was a soothing sound, very appropriate for the changing of seasons. This led me to ponder upon the other sounds I am hearing this time of year:

  • The pings and bangs of acorns – depending upon their size – as they fall from oak trees onto rooftops, cars, sidewalks and walkways;
  • The crackling of dried leaves from deciduous trees blowing in circles at entranceways to homes and buildings as the northern winds (northerners) become more frequent;
  • The howling of coyotes and outdoor hound dogs as the nights grow cooler and longer;
  • The rustling of berry-gorging birds, such as Cedar Waxwings, as entire flocks descend upon and strip nandinas, yaupons and other hollies of their bounty;
  • The squawking of geese in V-formation, flying far overhead and south for the winter; and,
    on very still mornings,
  • The popping open of mature seed pods, expelling their greatest achievement for our reward next season.
Cedar Waxwings gorging on fall berries. Photo courtesty of

Cedar Waxwings gorging on fall berries. Photo courtesty of

As I write this note, I continue to think of the common, but still beautiful, sights and smells of fall – trees set brilliantly afire with chlorophyll-deprived leaves, mature pumpkins and gourds on the vine or strategically arranged on doorsteps and, of course, the aroma of fresh-mowed hay and fresh-baked cinnamon-laced cakes and pies. Yet, I’m sure if I intently focused on the sounds of nature around me for a few additional days, I’d probably be able to collect many more tones and timbres I subconsciously relate to the fall season.
I encourage you to take a little time to listen to the arrival of fall as well –
Until next time,

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October is the Month for Acorns

Bur Oak Acorns

Bur Oak Acorns

October is THE month for acorns. Depending on where you live, most of the acorns from your oak trees may have already dropped. In the warmer climates, acorns are just now beginning to mature and fall. Regardless, whether you are looking at the ground in a dense forest in the north or in your own backyard in the south, you will likely find more than a few acorns resting there during the month of October.

Acorns have always fascinated me. I became even more fascinated with them last fall when the huge ones that drop from my two Bur Oak trees literally covered my front yard. In the North Texas area, we certainly had a bountiful acorn crop in 2010. I could not walk to the mailbox without “skating” down my sloped yard or performing a spontaneous break dance!

As you know, acorns are the fruit, or nut, of oak trees. In past times, humans consumed acorns much more readily than we do now. I’ve not tried acorns myself, but from what I’ve read they can be quite bitter. There is a process, however, if you have an interest, to make acorn meal minus the tart tannin taste. See for the detailed instructions, plus recipes.

Of course the most well-known critter to enjoy acorns is the squirrel. Among the other wildlife that partake of these tree nuts are various tough-billed birds such as blue jays, woodpeckers and wild turkeys, as well as mammals such as mice, rabbits, opossums, wild boars and deer. Indeed, acorns provide a large percentage of the food of forest-foraging creatures in the fall, and for those that hoard their food, acorns will provide sustenance throughout the winter.

Acorns are found in varying sizes and shapes, plus they differ in concentration of tannins, in accordance with the type of oak tree from which they fall. As I mentioned above, I have two Bur Oaks in my front yard and I am still amazed at just how large their acorns are – the largest found in North America, actually. Their fuzzy caps remind me of beach huts. Interestingly these large nuts have less tannins than most acorns and are favored by squirrels and deer. And as mentioned in another post, I also have a Texas Red Oak in my back yard and its acorns are what I’d call small to mid-size. They are reminiscent to me of Scottish golfers wearing tams. Red Oak varieties tend to have a higher concentration of tannins than most. I also have one Live Oak. The acorns of the Live Oak are small compared to other oaks. Unlike the Bur Oak and Red Oak, the Live Oak has the wonderful attribute of being evergreen. My Live Oak is 19 years old, provides greenery and shade to my patio year ’round, and is absolutely magnificent in size and shape. Unfortunately, my research did not find the tannin content of the Live Oak but I suspect it is mid-range.

Speaking of tannins in more detail, I learned that some of the finest hams come from hogs that have partaken of acorns with very high tannin content. Of special note is the delicacy, Spanish Iberico Ham. Think of it in terms of the taste of a fine, mature red wine and this makes a lot of sense!

Well, if you don’t have a pen of pigs to feed, what can you do with all those acorns you rake up this year?

Several things!


Fall Decor with Varied-Sized Acorns

Fall Decor with Varied-Sized Acorns

SIlver Spray Painted and Mini Jack-o-Lantern Acorns

SIlver Spray Painted and Mini Jack-o-Lantern Acorns


Use Acorns in crafts and/or for decoration or donate to an organization that will (Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Parks & Rec groups, Master Gardener groups, schools.)

Very important: Before acorns are to be used in any craft or decoration project, it is important to wash them, spread them on a foil covered cookie sheet and bake them at 250 degrees for about an hour to rid of worms, etc.  Be sure to completely allow them to cool before handling.

  • Simply add prepared acorns to a glass container or vase and create a centerpiece or side decor during the fall months.
  • Make tiny, cute Jack-o-Lanterns out of acorns for Halloween!
  • Make hanging acorn ornaments for Halloween, Thanksgiving and/or Christmas.

For more fun ideas on crafting with acorns, along with directions, see:


Donate Acorns to a Local Wildlife Sanctuary or Rehab Organization

  • Last year I had over 50 lbs of Bur Oak acorns to donate AFTER hosting multiple Christmas ornament decoration parties with my nieces and nephews. I called around and discovered a local wildlife sanctuary was housing two disabled whitetail deer, one blind and one lame. The folks at the Heard Museum McKinney Texas were ecstatic to receive the acorns. After dropping them off via my way into work one late fall day, I couldn’t have felt better!


Plant Acorns

  • Acorns are among the easiest of “seeds” to germinate. Some acorns actually begin the growing process the minute they hit the soil, in fact. If you have any large tubs or planters about your yard, toss in some soil, add a few acorns, and wait patiently until spring. I guarantee you’ll have a sapling or two to transplant or to share. My mom has a couple of Bur Oak offspring from my trees that are now about 10-12 feet tall and which will soon provide her a bit of shade (and, not to mention, the largest acorns in the US).


As I wrap up this post, I wanted to share a little more about the plants from which the acorns fall.

In addition to the three types of oak trees on my property there are many, many others – in fact, there are an estimated 400 – 600 species of oaks in existence today. White Oak, Pin Oak, Post Oak, Black Oak, Chestnut Oak, Willow Oak, Water Oak, Chinkapin Oak, Harvard Oak, Lacey Oak, Bigelow Oak (thought to be the smallest acorn producer), Spanish Oak, Sawtooth Oak, etc., etc. For scientific names and an interesting map of the range of various oaks (and other trees) in the United States, go to:

Lastly, acorns should be a reminder that all great things start small. An example of an early variant of this adage is found in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, 1374 – “as an ook cometh of a litel spyr” (a spyr, or spire, is a sapling). So as I end this post today, I encourage you to begin that project, take that first step toward a goal, and envision that dream – all the while keeping near the thought “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”

Until next time,


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A Dog Named Chumpie

Originally published early January 2012

There is a little white dog with reddish-brown spots that lives, unfenced, two doors down from my mom (about 6 acres away). He probably isn’t full bred, but he definitely has a lot of Bud Light’s “Spuds McKenzie” in him or rather, Bull Terrier blood, that is.

I first met this little dog two and a half years ago when he invited himself to our annual 4th of July cook-out and homemade fireworks display, routinely held under my mom’s carport and in her rural back yard. Spanky, my mom’s 10 year old Schnauzer, is deathly afraid of fireworks and hides in the closet every 4th of July. He’s a house dog and only ventures out in the fenced front yard for necessities, so we didn’t expect Spanky would be joining in the loud festivities. Instead, this tough, stout, little white dog with a spotted nose and tiny triangular eyes came down and celebrated with us that evening. He never flinched when the fireworks got a little too close for comfort or when my mom yelled at him to stop chewing on spent sparklers. It was pretty apparent nothing fazed this little dog.

That night, I donned him “Chumpie”. I don’t know why, but it is a name that fits and he seems to like it. Chumpie has made a point to trot down and visit us at every family gathering since, and I don’t doubt for a minute it is because he netted a couple of grilled hot dogs (in addition to spent sparklers) that 4th of July more than two years ago!

Amber and Chumpie

Chumpie and my oldest niece on the 4th of July a few years ago.

Jumping to present time, last weekend, my mom’s Schnauzer, Spanky, in an extremely unusual act for him, dug out of the fence. He was gone about an hour before my mom noticed he had escaped. As I mentioned earlier, Spanky is an indoor dog that only goes outside into a protected chain-linked fenced front yard. Spanky is not at all adapted to the wide-open rural life as some “country” dogs are. Realizing what he had done, my mom panicked of course and immediately began looking for Spanky. She knew his sheltered life would not serve him well in a rural area that boasted of free range, territorial dogs – not to mention the occasional coyote, bobcat, rattlesnake, and rifle-carrying protective land owner. Most frightening to us, however, were the 75 mph missiles on the two farm-to-market roads that border my mom’s widespread neighborhood. Folks in the country do not tend to slow down when a “critter” is in the road. This is not so much because they purposely wish to run over the critter – but for two reasons, really. Number one – there simply isn’t any room to swerve on two-lane country roads as generally there aren’t shoulders present and you certainly don’t cross the yellow center line into oncoming traffic. Number two – most roaming country dogs know to get out of the way of vehicles. (I’m not sure how they know this, but they do. In fact, they know just how close they can get to your vehicle to chase beside it without getting hit. Ever driven past a rural home and out of nowhere comes a German Shepherd or Collie that can keep up with your vehicle as you drive the length of the property?) Well, at any rate, Spanky is not one of those adaptive creatures. And to top it all off, Spanky escaped on New Year’s Eve – the second most popular night for fireworks! My mom was having visions of Spanky darting in all directions trying to avoid the onslaught of fireworks exploding in the dark rural sky that evening.

After my mom searched for a couple of hours with no luck, she called me and I loaded up my car for an overnight stay and drove down there. It would be close to dark before I arrived at her home, but I had a couple of flashlights and binoculars and we would do as much searching as we safely and cautiously could, I supposed. If you read my blog regularly and in chronological order, you are aware my dad passed away recently. To me, this major loss and very raw wound increased the importance of finding my mom’s furry companion.

That evening we drove around four adjacent rural neighborhoods, calling out Spanky’s name between fireworks explosions and cautiously shining our flashlights into vacant fields. (Note my mention of rifle-carrying protective land owners earlier.) As we drove down one of the county roads, out of nowhere comes none other than Chumpie! He had heard us in the distance calling out to Spanky and decided he’d answer the call. (He knows Spanky as the dog on the other side of the fence, so to speak. They’ve met before – nose to nose.) At any rate, Chumpie decided to get out in front of my car headlights and lead the search party. This little dog ran in front of my car the length of two long county roads, stopping every now and then to christen a mailbox post. At the end of the second road, I took pity on poor Chumpie as his short legs had slowed to a trot and his tongue was dripping and hanging out to the side of his mouth. I lured him into my car, setting him between my mom and I in the front seat. I don’t know that he’s ever ridden in a car before, but he wasn’t afraid and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it.

Defeated for the night, we drove back to my mom’s, letting Chumpie off at his designated house along the way.

The next morning, my mom and I got up early and created about 30 posters with Spanky’s picture, description and mom’s contact information listed. We then resumed our mission, this time with the blessing of daylight. We passed out posters to folks working in their yards and taped the remainder to fence posts located at the entrances of several nearby dead-end country roads. As we did these things we continued to call out Spanky’s name. Well, you probably guessed it, here came along Chumpie again – this time running to us from a different direction and across another field. Again, he led the search party, taking the time now and then to walk up into some of the yards where we humans couldn’t legally venture. The three of us searched all that second day with no luck.

Spanky was found that night. Alive and well. Hallelujah!

He had dug inside the fence of a home located two county roads over from my mom’s. We can only guess that he became disoriented by fireworks, or any one of the other aforementioned dangers, and decided it was best to be fenced in after all! The problem was he didn’t pick his home to dig back into – he picked a vacant home several acres away in which to seek shelter. Fortunately, a kind and sympathetic woman noticed a little black dog hiding under the porch of this fenced-in, known-to-be-vacant home, put two and two together and called my mom’s phone number listed on the flyer that we had posted at the entrance of her development.

Jealous SpankyA jealous Spanky watching my mom and nephew bottle feed an abandoned feral kitten.


Well, in the end I’d like to say Chumpie had something to do with Spanky’s rescue . . .

So I will!

Although Chumpie did not directly find Spanky, he certainly led the search party for two straight days. Most of all, he gave us hope. How? We knew if Chumpie could hear us calling three county roads away, then surely Spanky could hear us too. We knew if Chumpie could run toward us, dodging thick brush, makeshift fences, creeks and ponds, then Spanky could most likely get to us too. We knew if Chumpie, a tad smaller than Spanky, was able to withstand the dangers and elements overnight, then Spanky probably could too – at least for a little while. Thus, Chumpie gave us the fortitude to keep on looking – all the while posting more flyers and searching further out than we originally thought plausible. Chumpie inspired us and proved that an unlikely feat can oftentimes be accomplished with mere perserverance.

Thank you, Chumpie. We definitely owe you a few grilled hot dogs at the next family gathering!

Kristin and Chumpie

Until next time,

Apologize for the rain-spotted pic. Wasn’t going to post it, but then again, it is telling of Chumpie’s personality. He’s escorting my youngest niece to her vehicle.


P.S.  If your pet gets lost, don’t give up – even if it has been gone a few days. Post flyers in your neighborhood (within sign ordinance guidelines), post ads in newspapers and online, perhaps your neighborhood watch  site, and call your local animal shelter and nearby veterinarian offices to make them aware of your loss. Be safe by limiting personal information (a phone number is sufficient contact info.)  In suburban areas, many folks routinely walk for exercise and have developed a keen sense for out of place pets along their path. You’d be surprised just how many people (and Chumpies) are out there willing to help!

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Biscuit – Pyscho Cat



Originally posted Nov 2012

I wasn’t planning to write a post this morning. I have one in the works regarding pansies and ornamental cabbages, but it isn’t quite finished yet.

This is the week of Thanksgiving and I am so thankful I was indeed able to sleep in this Saturday morning as I had no hair appointments, grocery shopping, impending chores or errands otherwise to do early. It felt good to wake to no alarm, a rare occurrence for me and I dare say, for most of you, too. You see, I’m one of those people who naturally needs 9-10 hours of sleep per night. I’m not lazy, although I am sure some folks with high metabolisms think I am. I merely function optimal with 9-10 hours of rest. At my age, I have simply learned to accept this fact and attempt to plan accordingly.

At any rate, while I didn’t awake to a nasty alarm this morning, I did wake to my cat, Biscuit – lovingly called “Psycho Cat” at times – meowing and nudging me. Although I had no personal pressing chores to do, I did need to feed her, my blind & deaf dog, Buzz, and the blue jays that were stirring by that time.

After feeding Biscuit and Buzz, I decided it being Thanksgiving week I would fill all my bird feeders to the brim this morning. After all, I had plenty of black oil sunflower seed in the garage. Feeding chores done, I planned to leisurely have an extra cup of coffee in the kitchen and watch the birds surround my autumn backyard as I browsed my computer for Christmas deals.

Psycho Cat interrupted this plan.

Biscuit, aka Psycho Cat, is an indoor cat. She has no front claws. Not by my doing, but by the person who owned her years ago before I adopted her. She’s been a rather skittish cat for the most part, but for some reason she has recently decided to come out of her shell – or she simply has become bored in the house. Over the past couple of weeks she has, inch by inch, ventured out into the backyard via Buzz’s doggie door. I’ve seen her partake in a little green grass outdoors – which is good for kitties to eat every now and then, by the way. If they eat too much, though, you will find it regurgitated in areas you hoped not to.

This morning, Biscuit decided to venture outside after finishing her breakfast. She hung out on the patio a while, preventing numerous birds from flocking to the seed I had just deposited in the feeders. Oh well, I thought to myself, the birds will come later.

Next thing I know, Biscuit is hiding in the knock-out roses, scouting a dove that is perched on the bird bath. All you know what breaks loose as the dove, not the fastest bird on the block, freaks out and flies smack dab into the fence. I immediately get up from my coffee and whisk Biscuit into the house before she can pounce on the poor stunned dove.

Well, that lasted about 3 minutes. Psycho Cat’s now had a taste of the possibility that she might actually capture a bird, no claws and all. She’s back outside hiding behind my St. Francis statue, lying in wait for another fat dove. How ironic is this, I think?  St. Francis is holding a dove in his hand.

I get up from my now cold coffee and shoo her away again. In less than a minute she’s back outside (thus, the luxury and limits of having a doggie door.) This time there is a huge ruckus in the backyard and I’m hearing chattering and clicking noises I’ve not heard from a bird before. I look up and Biscuit has amazingly scaled my live oak tree, due to shear speed, no doubt, as I witness her fall 8 feet to the ground as her clawless paws cannot stick to the bark. She’s quite unhappy and so is that something which is chattering and clicking from above. As I walk outside, I see there is a squirrel above us, flicking his tail wildly and giving Biscuit the ole, “ha ha ha, you didn’t catch me” business!

Biscuit 2

I scoop Biscuit up and walk her back into the house for the 4th time. I decide I’ll give her some extra food this morning to hopefully make her fat and drowsy for the remainder of the day. I can only hope.

This trick gives me about a 5 minute reprieve. I’d settled back into my comfy kitchen chair with a refill of coffee, when I hear thumping and over the counter I see a white flash dashing back and forth in my living room. I assumed Biscuit was playing around with another piece of curling ribbon she found around the house so I wasn’t too worried . . .

FLASHBACK . . . those of you on my Facebook Page know that two days in a row this week I arrived home from work to find my blind & deaf dog, Buzz, with his two back legs completely wrapped up in curling ribbon – no doubt, compliments of Biscuit. Both days I found him sleeping soundly in his doggie bed, unable to walk properly because his legs were bound. You see, I had wrapped a gift earlier in the week and left the remaining ribbon out on the kitchen counter. Only Biscuit could retrieve it. I can only imagine in my mind how bonkers the curling ribbon must have made her to get to the point she ran ’round and ’round my poor helpless dog – two days in a row! Of course, after the second day I placed the ribbon in a drawer where Psycho Cat could not find it – well, at least I had hoped she wouldn’t find it!

Back to the story this morning . . . as I sat at the kitchen table with my laptop, trying to order one simple item for my mom for Christmas, I had to yet again get up from my seat and check out what Biscuit was up to. After all, she was now bouncing off the couch, coffee table and fireplace and I wanted to be sure she wasn’t binding and gagging Buzz again! Mystery solved. Seems as though while eating her second breakfast this morning, Psycho Cat found a huge, cold-stunned, helpless moth in the garage. I tried to save it before it became headless, but no such luck. Psycho Cat may not have claws, but her teeth can do a world of damage and like most cats, she’s discovered maiming insects  make them more fun to play with.

Paper towel in hand, I give the moth a proper burial in the garbage can. As such, Biscuit is off to another adventure, no doubt.

Well, this is it for today. Just had to share the events of my “laid back” Saturday morning! By the way, before I sat down to type this post I scooted over to my email to confirm my online shopping order had gone through.  Yep, it went through – TWICE!

Where’s that customer service number??

Until next time,

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Got the Blues?

Solar Light and Plumbago


Usually the blues kick in around winter time, when the end of Daylight Savings Time renders most of our waking hours to cubicles and offices at work. However I am not speaking of those blues in this post – I am speaking of the beautiful blues of fall!

As I walked around my landscape this past weekend I noticed that most everything currently blooming these days is some shade of blue.

Dwarf Mexican Petunia has produced color nonstop from spring to now, not to mention, throughout the severe drought we’ve experienced. Again, if you don’t have this ornamental perennial in your landscape, be sure to look for it in the nurseries come spring – and spring for a few. They are well worth it! (As a side note, I MIGHT have seed to share this year. I’ll keep my ears to the ground and see if I can scurry some up once they start popping. Contact me if you are interested in receiving some.)

Dwarf Mexican Petunia and Variegated Liriope  Variegated Liriope









As shown in the pic to the left above, I spied an immature Dwarf Mexican Petunia nestled among my Variegated Liriope which is also showing a bit of blue these days.

Variegated Liriope is a hardy perennial (or in my part of the country, an “evergreen” ground cover/filler/specimen plant) that is grown predominately for its leaves and clumping form. However, at certain times of the year it will surprise you with beautiful purplish-blue spires that are similar to those of salvias – see pic to the right above.

Vitex Shrub

Vitex Shrub


Speaking of spires, I must add that my Vitex is also still a’bloomin! As mentioned in my former post, Vitex is an amazingly hardy and beautiful specimen tree that has great recovery properties.


Blue Morning Glory



Then there is the gorgeous blue hue of the Morning Glory. As mentioned in my Moonflower Vine post, the Morning Glory is an annual vine but it germinates far easier than its nocturnal cousin. Since we’ve had a bit of rain and the temps are getting cooler, this vine greets me every morning with dozens of intense azure blooms.




Mourning Dove in Flower Basket

Mourning Dove in Flower Basket

A distant cousin of the above Morning Glory is yet another blue you may wish to display in your landscape.  Blue Daze, or Evolvulus, can be found in a subshrub, evergreen (perennial Zones 8 – 11) form  or in a low-growing ground-cover annual form.  The picture to the right is of the annual type and I can attest from spring through fall it blooms non-stop.  It enjoys full to mostly full sun and can tolerate drought and most soil conditions.  And, as you can see, the annual form does especially well in hanging baskets.

Lastly, I want to focus on Plumbago – Dwarf Plumbago, specifically. Best if planted in Zones 5 – 9, this perennial plant is very low growing and can be used as a wonderful ground cover in sun to partly shady areas – as long as it isn’t planted in a consistently wet area. Dwarf Plumbago is the type of plant that may not look especially pretty in the 4-inch pots in the nurseries in the spring, but once it is established in your landscape, it is stunning. Another advantage of planting Dwarf Plumbago is that while it chokes out unwanted weeds and grass in your flower beds, it will still allow enough sunlight and space for flowering bulbs to emerge – so you can have a nice, full ground cover beneath the vibrant blooms of your spring bulbs and when the bulbs subside, you can look forward to the electric blue blooms of the Plumbago come summertime. And a really nice surprise to this semi-evergreen plant is that in the late fall, its stems and leaves will join the autumn trees by turning bronze and deep red.

Dwarf Plumbago

In addition to serving as a ground cover (above and very top photo), Dwarf Plumbago is gorgeous when cascading in pots and hanging baskets. Since it is low-growing, I highly recommend adding a few other plants to your pots to add height and dimension to them. As I said above, Plumbago is a pretty good companion plant so adding additional plants to your containers can be done with ease.

While most websites suggest Dwarf Plumbago is fast spreading, I have not found this to be the case in my experience and I’ve planted it in both flower beds and containers. I’d say it spreads about average to slow, actually. If you have a large area to cover, I’d recommend evenly checkerboarding the area with plenty of seedlings to ensure coverage within the season if that is your goal. Another thing to note about Dwarf Plumbago is that it spreads through rhizomes – or underground stems. This means it may pop up outside of the areas you want it to! This isn’t a big deal, as for the third time I’ll remind you that although it may squeeze out weeds, Plumbago doesn’t seem to compete with other ornamentals. To remedy this however, gently pull or dig up the errant plant – and be sure the rhizome is attached or you’ll have another growing in the very same spot soon! (If you’ve had the pleasure of trying to eliminate Nut Grass from your yard, you know what I mean here.) A good thing about Dwarf Plumbago spreading through rhizomes is you can indeed transplant the errant sprouts quite easily. I simply add these sprouts to my containers as filler plants. Remember, there is always a place for a healthy transplant – even if it is in a friend, relative or neighbor’s yard!

So as I end this post, I sincerely hope you don’t actually have “the blues”.  But I do hope you are enjoying a little blue in your landscape this fall!

Until next time,


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Preparing our Gardens for Fall


I bet I know what you were thinking when you read the title of this post – “Why are you talking about fall weather when most of us are still seeing 95+ temperatures?” Well, rightly so, it is a tiny bit premature – but then again it is never too soon to plan as a gardener, is it? In fact, during winter months we gardeners spend most of our time dreaming of the first sign of spring!

Well, on with the topic . . .

Actually, due to the extreme temps we have had this summer, you may indeed have more tidying up and prep to do than usual this year to bring your beds up to par for fall. Below are a few tips I hope will prepare you for a more beautiful and bountiful autumn.


Trim Dried and Leggy Plants:

If you are fortunate, most of your perennials and some of your annuals are still hanging in there. However, they may have stopped blooming and/or have grown leggy during the summer season. Give them a good trim all over, dead-heading spent blooms if any. Even if they don’t come back in full force they will at least look nice and tidy for the coming cooler season.

Same goes for your leggy tomato and pepper plants these days. Don’t be afraid to top them off.  Chances are, if you do, you might see a few more red tomatoes and green peppers before the first frost.

Late Summer Lady Bug on Dried Tomato Stem

Late Summer Lady Bug on Dried Tomato Stem


Fill in Bare Spots & Spent Pots with New Plants:

Personally, I have a lot of bare spaces that need to be filled in since quite a few of my summer annuals bit the dust. If you do too, fill in those spots with new, cooler-weather blooming plants such as petunias, snapdragons, and dianthus, or, try placing a few containers of ornamentals in the area. Chrysanthemums and coleus would be nice potted alternatives about now.  In fact, I replaced a pot of very dry Mexican feather grass with burnt-orange budding mums just this weekend.  Instant patio decor transition for the fall season!

Unfortunately, the squash and cucumbers in my vegetable bed didn’t survive this summer either. If you are in a warm climate you can still give these quick maturing cucurbits a try from seedlings. Larger cucurbits such as watermelon, pumpkin and cantaloupe will not mature prior to frost, so I would be cautious about planting them now.

Leafy and root crops such as lettuce, cabbage, brussels sprouts, garlic, green onion and carrots can also be sown in early September for a fall harvest.


Weed Elimination and Control:

Unfortunately, since the temps were quite unbearable for leisurely puttering around in our yards this summer, most of us didn’t get outside as often as we would have liked to perform general garden maintenance. Thus, we probably have a few more weeds and errant grasses that have invaded our flower and vegetable bed spaces as a result.

If you have only a few weeds, the best way to eliminate them is to simply pull them up. The easiest time to do this by hand is the day after a good rain or sprinkling – when the soil is damp. You can easily manage pulling weeds by utilizing a 3-prong hand weeder or a long-handled diamond hoe. You may also simply use a screwdriver if you do not have the recommended tools handy.

An organic method of killing a few to moderate amount of weeds is to spray them with 10% grain alcohol vinegar. Some folks recommend adding a little orange oil and/or horticultural soap to the vinegar solution to help it adhere to the weeds. I have used this method often and it works very quickly – usually within a day or two. Just be sure to use a hand sprayer that allows you to pinpoint the weeds you wish to kill and avoid spraying on very windy days as vinegar will eradicate your good plants too!

If a bunch of grass and weeds have invaded your garden beds, you may need to solarize the space. This method will take 6 – 8 weeks so you will have to forego planting anything for a while. Simply place clear plastic over the grassy area and weigh the edges down with rocks, pebbles or otherwise. The sun will literally bake the plants and a bonus with this method is the sun’s heat will also rid the soil of potential unwanted insects as well. Two-for-one!

To control winter weeds, be sure to heavily mulch your existing beds that are in good shape. This will not only help to prevent weeds from sprouting, but will serve as a “blanket” for those perennials you hope to overwinter. Another two-for-one tip!

Late Summer Garden Box Clean Up Trimmed Tomato and Re-Mulched Herbs

Late Summer Garden Box Clean Up
Trimmed Tomato and Re-Mulched Herbs


Thanks for indulging me as I dream of the cool mornings and crisp evenings of fall. It’ll be here to stay in no time, so hopefully the above tips will come in handy the next few weekends!

Until next time,


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