Friday, September 6, 2013

Fairy Gardens: What a crazy interest for a retired physician!

       This cute little craze sort of insidiously crept up on us. During all the time I have spent in garden centers in the spring, as of  a few years ago I never saw anything that said this love of miniature gardens was coming. Now every major garden center has and even smaller Ma and Pa garden and flower shops have a fairy garden display with tiny tiny plants, miniature evergreens, miniature fairy statues, a few tiny shovels, rakes and brooms, tiny bird feeders and birdbaths, and of course little houses, arbors and fences. You can find whatever you might need for a tiny little garden.
     Well, first my middle sister announced that she had gotten a fairy garden kit and put together one in a shallow wide mouthed pot. This kind of intrigued me, so I began looking on the Internet, under fairy gardens. Then I found the crafters that have gotten into the act making all sorts of accessories themselves out of clay, bent twigs, and wood. There are videos of crafters making miniature doors out of clay that then can be attached to trunks of trees to make it look like fairies live inside the tree. Add a little moss, some lichenized material as they use in model railroading, and maybe some green dyed Spanish moss and you are well on your way.
     I started buying stuff. I dried some twigs and bent them into various shapes. The easiest and best looking thing that I made was a fence with twigs and green floral wire. I'm still working on an arbor, and a gazebo made of bent twigs. I also constructed a couple wooden doors out of dyed popsicle craft sticks with hardware made of clay.
     Then I went wild with the clay. This is the first time that I have worked with polymer clay, which you bake after fashioning whatever it is that you are fashioning. My sister used to make jewelry, rolling it, cutting it and squeezing it into balls and disks with very colorful effects. So I used the clay to make tables, chairs, pots, and even doors also to place against trees or little wooden buildings.
     I used glass beads and flattened glass beads to form bodies of water. I built bridges across the water with pieces of bark, and I put down all sorts of paths with tiny pebbles. I used moss everywhere to make roofs, grassy areas, and even the roof of a Hobbit like home built into the ground. I had an old butterfly house with a copper roof that was rotting away out in my woody glade and so I put a couple of those clay doors on it and low and behold a two story fairy house. I placed a tiny fairy baby figure inside a grape vine globe and hung it from a stick.
      Some of  the things you can purchase are quite cute and can't really be made. For example, a little croquet set sits on a mossy grass area in my layout. And there was a white wire bicycle with handlebar basket that looks entirely real, when parked near the steps leading up to one of my doors in the tree.
     This year as in many years, it has been dry in August and now into September so some of the tiny plants set in that would remain there permanently dried out, even though I watered them semi regularly. And I couldn't get the moss to take very well. So next spring will tell the story to see if these survived and then I will need more plant material next year. I definitely need to plant more little miniature plants because right now at least two of my sites sort of look like hillbilly fairyville with just dirt and mud, not much greenery. But they are in the middle of the woods, so maybe they would still attract real fairies. I just don't know. Never had to worry about attracting fairies before.
     Here are some photos of this summer's attempts for a fairy garden in the ground in my little seating clearing in my woods.
     I love gardening but I never thought I would be spending time making landscape articles for a miniature garden. Well, one never know what the future brings and what passionate interests bud with the spring.

The Hobbit's little-in ground home with planters and table outside.

The old butterfly house with various fairy items outside.

Fairy baby asleep in a grape vine orb.

Note the little croquet set near the bottom. I made the table with the dishes.

The chicken house and the woodpile.

The path into my secret place with the fairy sites.

    These are my first attempts.  Next year I will add lots more greenery and there will be more because the ground will be moister. The woodland floor is dry in August and most of the plants there have gone dormant.  Over the winter I need to repair some of the items. The glue I chose to use does not hold up in the out of doors. And maybe I will work on making other items for the site. I will post updated views of my scenes next year. I have definitely been infected by the fairy garden virus and I will continue this fun hobby.
      Now I just need some little kids to enjoy this with me. My six year old grandson thought it was kind of hokey, though he did help me place some of the items. And as for my three year old grandson-- it was a different story. I had to talk him into putting mosquito repellent on and in order to do that I told him that some of the mosquitoes around here can make you sick if they bite you (West Nile encephalitis). Well that worked to get the mosquito repellent on but it spooked him so much he wouldn't even go into the woods.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

More of my flowers.

     I did take some other photos of some of my flowers as I was walking around my yard. As you can see I love flowers. These are primarily dahlias, zinnias, and my fuchsia garden.

     I always dig up my dahlias after they freeze. I let them dry a little, then break off most of the dirt and put them in some perlite or vermiculite in a plastic bag, and actually I store them in my wine cellar. That seems to be just the correct temperature and it is humidified to protect the corks in the wine. Out in the general basement where the furnace is, it becomes to warm and they dry out over the winter. In the wine cellar, they are usually sprouting by spring enabling me to know where to break the rhizomes apart to multiply my plants.

     I had trouble getting my zinnias going this year. Between the cold June, the rabbits and the earwigs, most of the first plantings came up but soon disappeared. I reseeded a couple of times. Finally I began to spray the seedlings with a rabbit repellant as soon as they came up and I did get a few stands of zinnias. Unfortunately very few of the large tall ones survived. I will collect seeds this year but I will probably need to buy some of the large headed varieties again next year.
     My 95 year old mother always plants zinnias along her driveway. She collects the seed heads and uses her own seed. This year she had a lot of trouble. My sisters helped her replant a couple times and purchased a rabbit repellant also. But then the bed became infested with quack grass. Finally now there are a few plants budding between the quack grass. I think the rabbits didn't find these seedlings amongst the grass so in a sense the quack grass saved a few zinnias.

     One of my favorite flowers are fuchsias. I had let most of my baskets die a couple years ago as they were getting kind of leggy. Last year's drought and heat in the Midwest made it particularly hard to keep the fuchsias healthy. So this spring I purchased some new baskets trying to get as many cultivars as possible and there are thousands. I hang them in my white pine tree which is at the northwest corner of my house, where they receive dappled shade. Below the hanging plants is a stone wall covered with moss, and around the base of the pine tree is sweet woodruff and some cranesbill. This was a favorite corner of my garden this spring and early summer when the fuchsia was in its prime. I put a folding chaise lounge out there and even though it is on the side of the house away from Lake Michigan, I still spent some wonderful afternoons out there reading and daydreaming. I always tried to overwinter my fuchsias by allowing them to grow even though the growth got leggy, and they dropped most of their leaves. I also had to spray periodically for whitefly. But now I have read that one should cut the plants back to just 6 inches of woody stems and just barely keep them watered enough to prevent them from totally drying out, and store them in a dark cool place, preventing them from attempting to grow. I am debating whether to try this method this year. I am a little afraid though because I have never done this before. Does anyone know about wintering fuchsia this way? If so send me a comment or an email.

     A few other flowers: moss roses, and impatiens.


      And here, last but not least, is my saquaro.---- No, of course it is not a saguaro. It is a common mullein which loves the fertile soil of my flower beds. My husband thinks I am nuts for letting this thing grow right there in front of our house. But I recall going to the Chicago Conservatory when Dale Chihuly was exhibiting his glass art works there, and in their side garden as you enter a side door of the greenhouse, here were mulleins growing purposely left in the beds. I tried to tell my husband that but he made a face. I find mulleins pretty when they are in their first year and form the rosette of lovely light green fuzzy leaves, and even in the second year when they first spike they are attractive, but I admit by this time of year, they are looking a little ratty. This one I left because it was so saguaroee -- My made up word.


My Prairie -- My Home Companion

     I have always loved to garden. But when we moved to our newly built house in 1998, and I realized what a large area of empty land we had, I decided to flank our driveway near the street with tall grass prairie plantings. My husband now calls it my "jungle." It has take a long time but the one side of the driveway has really taken ahold with 8 feet high cup plant, prairie dock, big blue stem, Culver's root, gray headed cone flowers, sweet black eyed susan, gaura, liatris, baptisia, veronica, Monarda, cut leaf cone flower, rattlesnake master, a few Baptisia, a few monkshood, yarrow, wild bergamot, purple cone flower, pale purple cone flower, obedient plant, Joe Pye weed, yellow flag, Virginia bluebells, early golden rod, Soldago (the common later large golden rod, Queen of the Prairie ,wild quinine and I let Chrysanthemum leucanthemum grow in there even though it is not native. It is short lived and I haven't found it to crowd out my other plants. Actually nothing could crowd out the cuplant, the prairie dock and the cutleaf cone flowers. For some reason, like some of my cultivated perennials around the house, this year these prairie plants have gone wild also. On one side of the driveway there are almost no invasives and there are blossoms galore. Even my husband who hates my choice of use for the land, couldn't believe the prairie dock this year. "Some of those stems are 9 or 10 feet tall with yellow flowers on them! What is that?" He was impressed. We cannot burn a prairie planting in Mequon without making a big deal and getting permission and inviting the fire department to be there etc. So every late fall, my husband mows the two areas in order to keep the woody plants like buck thorn and tree seedlings under control. He complains about this job, but he does it anyway.

     When I walked to the neighbors the other day to photograph some of the motorcycles at their Harley Davidson 110th Anniversary party (see preceding post), I snapped some pictures of my "jungle" as well. Thought I would post them here to show what these tall grass prairies can look like in a suburban neighborhood.

I was worried about the Monarchs because I haven't seen too many this
summer. Here is one on grey headed coneflower Ratibida pinnata .

Another monarch on black eyed susan.

An overview of one jungle area.

Black eyed susans, purple coneflower Echinacea purpureum
, Soldago, and early goldenrod.

Cup plant in back, black eyed susans in front.
Silphium perfoliatum and Rudibeckia hirta.

Prairie dock: Silphium terebinthinaceum

Grey headed coneflower in front, Ratibida pinnata,
 a Sinensis ornamental grass behind (even
 though it is not native).

Joe Pye weed. Used to be called Eupatorium.
Now it is named Eutrochium. I think mine is a
cultivar of Eutrochium purpureum that is a little
shorter. Eupatorium is now applied to white snakeroot.

Gray headed coneflower, Joe Pye weed,
and rattlesnake master which is
Erygium yuccafolium. .

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Harley Davidson 110th Anniversary!

     I stepped outside this beautiful Sunday morning. The heat is less and there is a cool breeze and a few clouds in the sky. Lake Michigan looks calm and blue. BUT, in the distance, or perhaps not even very distant, there is a roar, a throbbing roar. The hogs are out in full force. Yes, it is the 110th Harley Davidson Reunion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee is the home of the original Harley Davidson plant and its owners Willie Davidson, and now his son Bill Davidson and daughter Karen Davidson, reside locally.
Willie and his machines. Photo from Journal Sentinel, August 31, 2013
     Local station WTMJ interviewed Willie and his offspring from the balcony of the Harley Davidson Museum here in Milwaukee on Saturday. Below is the website to play the interview.

    Every 5 years the Harley Davidson company throws a big "Welcome Home" birthday bash for any bikers that want to come to Milwaukee. And they did come, 100,000+ of them from all over the world to attend this century plus decade celebration. We have heard interviews from people from Europe, many Australians, some from Southeast Asia, South America especially Brazil, and a couple from South Africa who own a bike which they leave here in Milwaukee. They return to the birthday party every year and then travel outwards on their bike to see the US.  One German couple had their bike shipped to Las Vegas where they met up with it and then made the cross country drive by way of Sturgis, South Dakota, (73rd Annual Sturgis Rally, Aug 1-19, 2013) to the celebration here in Milwaukee. It is exciting that our relatively small American city is the world wide attraction to so many people from all over the world. I have heard that hotels are booked up inside the city well in advance and people are staying all the way to Sheboygan to the north, Racine and Kenosha to the south, and all the way to Madison, the capitol of WI in the west. Some locals are so excited that even though not enthusiasts, they open their home as B & Bs for the bikers.

     Actually these guys and gals were around last weekend, and then more arrived throughout the week. Thursday some of the celebrations started.  Friday night there was a big party at the Maier Festival (Summerfest) Park downtown, and at many area dealers. Live music is a major part of all these events including Aerosmith and Cheap Trick on Friday night. Saturday morning there was the downtown Harley parade starting at the State Fair Grounds, taking Wisconsin Avenue to downtown, and then ending up at Summerfest Park. Many locals, and families who are not bikers get out and line the parade route to see all the bikes, greet the riders, holding "Welcome Home" signs, and especially to feel that thrummm vibration in their sternums. At least 6000 bikers participated in this sternal thumping experience. Saturday night lots was going on again at Summerfest, with bands at 5 stages. There are also street parties Saturday night at Milwaukee and Water Streets, and also Sunday downtown on Juneau. Party central Sunday is the Milwaukee Harley Davidson dealer out on Silver Spring and the plant itself. Many activities throughout the weekend have been at the Harley Davidson Museum. The closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday was even "rung" from Milwaukee out in front of the Museum. And it was not a bell -- it was a VROOM, VROOM -- the sound I have been talking about in this article.  And of course wherever there is a dealer in the whole southeastern Wisconsin area, there is a party which turns into a street fair. There are booths that sell all kinds of accessories, do art that is related to the motorcycle lifestyle, design and sell cycling clothes, and design, paint and decorate your bike itself.  Our neighbor is the controller at the Harley Davidson plant and will be hosting 150 to 200 dealers at his home, just two doors away for an open house from 10 Am to 3 PM Sunday. So we will have some of that specific hog sound right next door. Some of the neighbors have asked the controller to have his guests do a parade around our neighborhood circle drive. And all of these events are free. Where can so much fun be had for the cost of your bike and its gasoline, and your hotel room?

     I heard that there were three marriages that took place this year, under a tent especially placed for this purpose near the entrance to Harley Davidson Museum. One of these ceremonies was filmed on the local TV and it had a few attendees but all around it was the crowd of riders and vrooming sound. I guess that would make an enthusiast's wedding a very memorable one. In the case of one young couple, the gal purchased a beautiful new Harley for her boy friend for $26,000. She said, "I wanted to get him something shiny, so that he would turn around and get me something shiny." Ladies, do you have any idea what she was talking about?

     I am happy that all these riders have brought their business to our fair city. And I even enjoy seeing all the fancy bikes and the people watching tendency in me enjoys seeing the riders as well. Generally they are down to earth people. What has shocked me and made me concerned is that about 80 to 90% of these riders do not wear a helmet. There are maybe 10% where two people are on the bike and one only is wearing a helmet, usually the woman if it is a couple. I had hoped for some improvement in this practice. An accident at freeway speeds and the head injury would either kill or almost worse leave someone permanently damaged. I am a retired physician and have seen the results of a motorcycle accident. In fact one of my patients had been drinking and had a motorcycle accident which involved him dropping the bike which threw him off the side of the road. He has cognitive loss and now neuromuscular deficits as though he had had a stroke. And driving around today, the local pubs all had bikes out front; the riders were likely inside drinking I am sure. I had heard that local emergency rooms were gearing up, and just now, Sunday night, the news reports one accident in Racine, south of Milwaukee in which 2 riders were seriously hurt. They were not wearing helmets.  I can only hope that the further festivities are proceeding with safety.

     I certainly did see some pretty cycles. There was a bright red one at the Highland House where we usually go for supper after our typical Saturday night movie. It had masses of red steel all around the front wheels and the front end was covered with a huge red steel shield all shaped like the tongues of flames. It was gorgeous. Too bad I don't have a photo of it.  And there was another orange one also that was very attractive. If I were going to be a hog enthusiast, I would certainly want a red one. I have always loved red cars. The only reason my current Buick Lacrosse is silver, is because in Japan where the paint is made, the tsunami destroyed the capability of making the red paint that Buick purchases to paint its automobiles. But if I had a Harley, I would have a red one.

     Another thing I have noticed is that there are more women drivers. There have always been many couples but the woman usually rode in back clinging to her man. Now often there are single women drivers, or even, though rarely, the woman is driving and the man is clinging. Interesting gender dynamics going on here. Also at least new to me this year, is a motorcycle which has a fairly wide seat behind the driver and has two wheels back there -- a tricycle, if you will. I have seen several of these but not close enough to know if these are Harley made or not. Now if I had a man who was a hog rider, I could envision myself perched up in that rumple seat with my long blond hair (bleached) blowing over my shoulder, riding through the American vistas as they show in the commercials for Harley. Well, that will have to wait for another life. I am too scared-- what with my doctor training. I plan to stay off these vehicles until I die. Now who knows what's in store for me in another life.

     On the news tonight someone asked what would happen if someone with a different motorcycle make showed up at the Harley party. Well, indeed the reporter found a Honda which was yellow, of all the colors. Some of the Harley riders there were belittling the Honda, but the owners said everyone had been very nice to them and they had not had any trouble. Actually it was a pretty Honda, but of course it didn't have that Harley sound. I learned that the way the motorcycle comes off the assembly line, it does not have that sound necessarily unless it is being custom manufactured from the beginning. Many of the riders purchase additional sound equipment for the bike.  I guess it is the type of muffler that purposely creates that hog sound.

     Well, we are headed out to breakfast at the Wooden Goose, our usual Sunday morning breakfast greasy spoon. I wonder if there will be any red Harleys parked at this establishment. I'm off to find out.................................................................................................................(Time passing.)

There was only one bike at Wooden Goose.
Guess the bikers don't know about this
great dining experience in Mequon, WI

      If you are interested in reading more, here is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel lead article for Thursday when the whole celebration began in earnest. The Harley celebration news has even eclipsed the Green Bay Packers news here in southeast Wisconsin.

     Below are some beautiful bikes that were parked near our neighbor's house during an open house for Harley dealers.

Motorcycles all lined up at our neighbors.

Maybe this one could be my red hog in my next life.

More of a burgundy color on this one. I read that the fashionistas say
burgundy is out as a color this fall season, so I don't know.
The fashion magazines say vivid blue is the color for fall. Honest. I read that!

Maybe a nice jewel green.
I asked these people coming to the party, "Where are you from?" I was hoping
for maybe Germany or at least as far away as Texas. But no they are from
 13 miles away, in Milwaukee. Oh well.

This one is nice, red, white and black. No, too youthful for me.

Guess I'll have to do some thinking about style of helmet also, huh?
Lots of nice chrome on this one.

Now we're getting closer. But it's really coppery orange, isn't it?
Ahh! Here we go! Red with orange and charcoal grey accents. This is the one! Put it away for me to be picked up
sometime in ---- I don't know, when will my next life be? 2050 or so? Think we'll be riding hogs then?
Well, the colors are right.