Nature Friday ~ May 24, 2019

FlowersWelcome to another edition of Nature Friday where we visit our ‘fur-iends’ Rosy and her brothers from The LLB Gang. We’re finally greeting with gorgeous blue skies this morning which should last for at least for the next couple of days. It’s still chilly (in the 30’s at this writing) but should warm up nicely (until the next round of cooler weather returns).

Poppies

Despite the chilly weather and snow this week, the number of blooming plants we encountered during our daily walks and in our garden have been surprising. The many lupines, irises and peonies in my garden seem to have taken the snow with a grain of salt and are either blooming or will, in spite of what nature threw at them this week. Take the Oriental poppies for instance. The colorful, herbaceous plant of the Papaveraceae family, poppies are very easy to grow and come in shades of white, yellow, pink, orange and red. Red poppies have been used as the symbol of remembrance since the trench warfare in the Flanders, Belgium poppy fields of World War I.

California poppy
Photo courtesy of Planet Natural Research Center

This year, as any West Coast  resident can likely attest, the California poppy bloom has been spectacular due to all they rain they have received. California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), with their fern-like foliage and lively orange, red and yellow flowers are very drought-tolerant plants that are self-seeding and offers long-lasting blooms that provide reliable, easily maintained plants especially with extra moisture and goodness knows, there’s been plenty of that to go around this year. Last year a couple  magically appeared and quickly multiplied around the garden. Though mine haven’t bloomed yet, they will burst onto the scene soon once the weather warms up. Guess I need to do more thinning this weekend if this spot is any indication of their self-seeding abilities. That spot used to be bare but is now filled in with new lupines, sage and California poppies. Guess the Mile High can be jungle-like given enough prolific seeders and some moisture.

Poppies

Having been cooped up and shivering all week long, I plan to get out and check out what Mother Nature has  been up to after this week’s storm. Do you have any plans that will get you out to enjoy some of the beauty Mother Nature’s willing to share? Hope your weekend is full of beauty and fun.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ May 17, 2019

Yay, it’s finally Friday and we couldn’t be happier putting this week in the history books. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a little nature, right? Even though we are in the heart of the city, there are lots of spaces where one can get away from the constant noise and hubbub. While out running around doing errands this week I came across this mini-stream between a couple of parking lots. It enchanted me enough that I climbed down the bank and just stood there for a few moments taking it all in before resuming the challenging battle against returning to the hamster wheel known as urban life. Sadly, I scared away some bathing birds who undoubtedly thought I was trespassing, if their squawking was any indication.

City Stream

Once home, I realized the woodruff in my garden is beginning to green up and bloom. Apparently a little Ladybug also discovered it and was busily noshing for aphids or the other little crawly things they enjoy. It gave me another opportunity just to quietly watch and relax while nature did its thing.

During this morning’s walk-about, I noticed one of the neighbors has replaced their turf grass into a carpet of tiny purple flowered groundcover. It won’t need mowing and I don’t ever recall these flowers being quite as prolific and lovely as they are this year. Guess last week’s snow and rain encouraged an enhanced bloom now that the temps have moved back into the 80’sF. The spring temperatures have been so fickle this year; one week in the 30’sF and a few days later up into the 80’sF. Springtime in the Rockies is never dull.

Sam & Elsa

Sam continues to feel better; thank you for all the sweet thoughts and POTP. It’s made quite the difference in bringing back the Knucklehead’s smile.

Nature FridayHave a wonderful weekend and don’t forget to visit Rosy and her brothers and all the other ‘pawticipants’ in this week’s Nature Friday Blog Hop.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ May 3, 2019

Welcome to a new month and a new Friday. That of course means it’s time to join our friends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard for this week’s edition of Nature Friday Blog Hop. This week I am joined by an assistant to show off how fickle Mother nature can be with some photos from a training session with none other than…the Ninja.

Mother Nature dealt quite a hand this week with snow, rain and cold but things are now headed back toward lovely spring-like conditions. Elsa  ‘offered’ her modeling talents before Mother Nature began dating Ole Man Winter again (are Ninjas really capable of offering?). Most of the week temperatures rarely left the 30’s F and barely reached the 40’s yesterday. I keep hoping Mother Nature will leave that Winter guy.

Before showcasing the return of spring, let’s see what the jerk boyfriend looked like. You remember him. The one who Mother Nature can’t seem to stop from stringing along periodically. Even with the snow storm that blew through, the grape hyacinths didn’t seem to mind him nearly as much as us peeps did. They are gloriously colorful, once they shook off Old Man Winter’s dandruff. Even the late-blooming tulips in my yard managed to survive with nary a problem.

Winter

Tulips

Elsa and I went out to run a few errands and like always, we used the outing as a training opportunity. Elsa is eager to please and performs the sit/stay command like a champ. Even with distractions, she was nearly flawless. Good girl.

Spring

She actually looked directly into the camera a couple of times although her usual MO is to look away. I think a certain brother told her that’s the way to offer her modeling talents. She frequently follows his instructions but one in a while, she’ll give you some magic.

Elsa

Elsa

While I try not to overwhelm her on these training sessions, I do change-up the length of time I ask her to stay and, at different places. This girl is far too smart and needs the challenges they offer. She performed flawlessly along on a street we’d never been down with loads of interesting smells to distract her, yet she managed to nail it perfectly.

Elsa

Teaching a dog like Elsa to focus on a hilly location with lots of undergrowth while trying to keep my balance and not poke out an eye with a branch, keep her in a stay position all the while trying to highlight a flowering apple tree, can prove interesting and required a couple of tries. I’m sure a rabbit had hung out in the undergrowth which if you know anything about dogs with a high prey drive can sabotage any training session. The photo itself isn’t anything to write home about nature-wise, but the fact that she managed to sit without breaking the stay seemed like a big deal in my books. Her progress with learning new things continues to improve and provides confidence. I can’t help but wonder if ‘Ninja swagger’ with Elsa will be a good thing or my downfall.

Elsa

For the most part, the tulips are beginning to wane (except for those in my yard-yay) but we did manage to visit this garden with some pretty pink ones still. Last year they were amazingly beautiful, this year, the beds hadn’t been cleaned up so they’re not quite as lovely, but still managed to coordinate with Elsa’s bandana, proving once again that Mother Nature will sometimes still work with you.

This weekend is shaping up to be warm and sunny which will be most welcome in the 303. Elsa and I hope you are able to get out and enjoy it. Sam indicated he plans to laze about in the sun as he contemplates the complexities of life. Happy weekend, peeps and pets!

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ April 26, 2019

It’s Friday so that means we’re joining our friends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard for this another edition of Nature Friday Blog Hop. This week the ‘editors’ decided at our staff meeting to share a touch of the woods despite them being miles away and the minor detail of the Ranch hands living in an urban landscape. Sam in particular likes this first exhibit, it smells heavenly to both him and his ‘huMom.’

FlowersAs the early spring bulbs begin to wind down, we’re beginning to notice a transition to other spring bloomers. Golden Alyssum, sometimes called basket-of-gold plants (Aurinia saxtilis) is starting to pop up along our neighborhood walks. This easy to grow perennial signals that spring is moving full speed ahead toward the full blooming gardening season. Hardy from Zone 3 through 7, this taxicab-yellow addition likes a sunny garden location with well-drained soil and will tend to die back once the weather takes on hot summer temps. It doesn’t particularly like overly rich soil, wet or humid conditions which tends to make it well-suited for Denver’s high mountain desert conditions. Once the blossoms drop, a quick shear of the top third of the plant will freshen its look and prevent it from going to seed. You can divide the plants in the Autumn.

Planted at the base of a tree with south-west exposure, Golden Alyssum provides a nice wooded area look to my neighbor’s garden. Frequently planted as a ground cover with bulbs, it keeps the garden looking less bedraggled once all the daffodils, tulips and other spring bulbs have finished blooming before summer perennials take center stage.

Another woodland looking plant that is beginning to show up is Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata). Suitable for planting in nearly any soil conditions, it likes sunny exposures though it will tolerate partial shade. Soil should be well-drained. Cutting back spent blooms may provide subsequent blooming. the plants are about four inches tall and can spread up to two feet providing a blanket of blooms in bright shades of pink, lavender, red, white or bluish-purple. This low-maintenance evergreen plant works well on slopes or other  areas, can spread between rocks or tumble over a wall and makes it perfect for creating a woodland look in the landscape garden. Creeping phlox is drought-tolerant hardy in USDA Zones 3B through 10 and requires supplemental water only during warm, dry weather.

Flowers So as you think of Mother Nature this weekend, don’t forget to look toward woodland looks to making the transition from early spring bulbs toward warm weather plants. Hope your weekend is full of beauty and peace.

Flowers

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ April 19, 2019

Today is Good Friday and another week is in the books. I hope you’re ready for the Easter weekend. We’re once again joining our friends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard for this week’s Nature Friday Blog Hop, Good Friday edition. Today we’re gonna take a look at Mother Nature’s flowering trees that are starting to enter into the spring landscape. Ornamental pears have begun to blossom and when we see these around the 303, we know spring has definitely sprung (yes, I do realize that there is still good chance for a snow shower or two over the next few weeks but I’m too busy enjoying spring to worry about it now).

Ornamental pear trees (known as Bradford Pears) have been planted all over the urban Denver landscape. Known for its conical shape and showy blossoms, they are taking front and center stage now. My two assistants graciously agreed to pose near a band of them lined up along the parking strip between street and sidewalk (for Elsa, it was a sit/stay training moment and she passed…we like to multitask on our walks).

Trees

A closeup shows clusters of pinkish centers amid white blossoms. When I was researching these trees, I was shocked to learn many people are not fans, in fact, many have called for their removal as a menace to modern landscaping. They cite invasiveness and lack of biodiversity as well as structural issues since their branches tend to split when the trees are anywhere from 15-20 years old. In the early 1900’s, Frank Meyer, a plant explorer from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture went to China to find the most disease-resistant strain which could be grafted to existing pear trees. Good Ole Frank found what he thought would be a good variety and brought back 100 pounds of seed and, for a while, it worked like a charm. The trees will grow in nearly any soil, mature quickly and bloom early in spring with bright orange foliage in autumn. They are one of the first blooming trees in spring and the last to drop their pretty leaves in autumn. Landscape architects thought they’d found the perfect tree. It soon became the most widely planted tree in the U.S. By the 1990’s however, landscapers discovered the ugly side to these pretty additions to suburbs and office parks. While these trees’ symmetrical structure is attractive, it leads to what’s known as “weak crotches” (all limbs branch out from the trunk). This weakness often causes them to split apart. Additionally, storms contribute to extensive splitting damage. Over the past several years in my own neighborhood, storms have decimated many of the trees (including the two across the street leaving them badly deformed and misshapen). The owner can’t bear to cut them down and continues to try to save them. Bradford pears don’t self pollinate, but cross-pollination can occur with the other strains of ornamental pears resulting in problematic hybrids.

The introduction of these trees underscores the fact that too often there are unintended consequences requiring contemplation before moving ahead. Remember, it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

And because they have been as spectacular as I’ve ever seen, here are more tulips from around the neighborhood with apologies to my Instagram followers who are probably sick of seeing tulip after tulip on my feed. My own tulips are taking their own sweet time (in their defense, that happens when they aren’t bathed in sunlight the livelong day). They give a real Keukenhof Gardens feel even if I’m thousands of miles from Lisse, Netherlands.

Tulips

Tulips

 

 

 

 

 

 

TulipsTulips

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope you are able to enjoy the lovely renditions of Mother Nature and have a wonderful and joyous Easter weekend.

Easter

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ April 12, 2019

We managed to make it to another Friday so that means we can share what cruelties ‘dear’ Mother Nature offered this week as we join our blog friends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard in this week’s edition of Nature Friday. On Wednesday morning, we came upon this lovely. Mind you, a blizzard was forecast for later in the day so I especially wanted to capture these pretties in case the weatherman was accurate and they’d be buried. It was misting lightly and chilly that morning. Especially chilly considering it had been 80 F just the day before. I haven’t seen any tulips this pretty and unusual and probably wouldn’t have given them a second look if it weren’t for that gorgeous foliage. So striking, wouldn’t you agree?

Well the blizzard came and went, the dogs and I huddled together and watched as wind blew and four inches of the white stuff fell. The wind caused all sorts of problems for travelers, the governor put the National Guard on notice, the airport pretty much closed and streets and walkways got icy But we managed much better than with the bomb cyclone a couple of weeks ago….meaning no power outage.

Mother Nature frequently gives new meaning to “Springtime in the Rockies” but seasoned residents know things around here can change in a heartbeat. I was curious to see how those tulips fared so yesterday afternoon we went out to see the damage. Tulips, while pretty as a postcard, tend to flop when they get wet and unlike the hardy daffodils who often bounce back with nary a droop, tulips often tend to stay bent in submission.

Imagine my surprise when I saw them in not too bad of shape. Granted they are a bit protected against a retaining wall, but with their long stems I expected them to be pretty much bedraggled.

Even my hyacinths didn’t seem too worse for the wear. Looks like we dodged a bit of a bullet. The wet snow was mostly melted by the early evening and everything seemed transformed into a verdant landscape which is why I, for one, love spring storms. Their moisture is essential to keeping things alive and thriving in the Mile High climate as well as topping off reservoirs that will be tapped all summer long.

Everything just takes on a new vibrant look after a spring storm. Even a few early blooming trees began to celebrate the white manna from heaven and the lupines are showing how hardy they are. Take that Mother Nature-you can’t hold us down, they seem to shout!

Along with all the pretty stuff greening up, so too have those rotten weeds. Sigh.

Things will be cool for the next few days but should be right back in the 60’s and 70’s by next week…just in time for another round of ‘Springtime in the Rockies.’

So our advice for this weekend, get out there and enjoy what Mother Nature offers, if you don’t like that particularly flavor, wait a few hours, no doubt she’ll offer something more in line with what you will find tasty.

My laptop is feeling a bit puny still and went back to computer ICU yesterday {sniff, sniff} so this was crafted on an iPad, with apologies for not being able to figure out how to add the appropriate links, etc. in the WordPress app (like where in the heck is the dang spell check button?!) oh well, at least I didn’t have to try to post on a phone keyboard-I have no idea how people can do that effectively. Guess it just takes time to get used to what device you utilize. Funny how dependent we are on our devices and how those very machines take every opportunity to show us who’s really in control. At any rate we hope your Friday is wonderful but your weekend even better.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ April 5, 2019 Edition

It’s Friday-yippee we made it! Please join us as we visit our friends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard for this week’s edition of the Nature Friday Blog Hop. Spring has definitely sprung this week. Warm days in the 70’s have coaxed loads of springtime bulbs to bloom and with all the snow we received this winter, they are quite lovely.

Come along with us on our walk, where we took a different route to see what else was blooming around the ‘hood. We first came upon a front strip of bi-colored tulips. This formal garden is laid out symmetrically with straight borders along the sidewalk and around the house (unlike my hodge-podge cottage garden).

Flowers

Pops of red make quite the statement in an early spring garden shouting to all pollinators, “Stop here, free lunch!”

Tulip Flowers

Further along our walk, we came upon another sunny border of pretty hyacinths. I’ve now seen hyacinths in six colors from white, pale yellow, pink, magenta, lavender and deep purple varieties. This border makes me long for a sunnier front garden since part of the day my garden is shaded by a large tree. Still they can’t be beat for fragrance and splashy color and even Sam buries his snout in these beauties for a nice deep inhale of their exquisite fragrance. It should be noted that most spring bulbs are poisonous for pets and definitely monitored when encountering them.

Apologies for the excessive bokeh effect; I had to hang over the fence to capture these blooms and was nervous I’d either fall on my head or get all tangled up upside down on the chain link fence. Imagine that for a moment. Entertaining for the you perhaps, but definitely not pretty.

Hyacinth Flowers

Many neighbors have started setting out pansies which do well despite chilly evenings and provide needed color in a brown landscape. Planting tender annuals doesn’t occur around here before Mother’s Day due to frost dangers. We’ve even experienced snow squalls in the first week of May over the past couple of years so patience is definitely a virtue when gardening here. Pansies with their smiling faces provide us cabin fevered peeps an easy way to shake off the winter doldrums.

Flowers

We hope you are able to take a walk around your neighborhood this weekend and see how spring is waking up. Enjoy a spot of nature and have a terrific weekend.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

 

Nature Friday ~ March 29, 2019

It’s hard to believe we finally reached Friday this week after everything that happened earlier but even harder to believe it’s the last Friday of the month. Where in the world did March go? We once again join our hosts, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard, for this week’s edition of the Nature Friday Blog Hop.

Nature FridayMother Nature must have received the memo to stop messing around and start delivering some actual spring to us winter-weary folks. This week we’ve seen a bevy of spring bulbs blooming in bright pops of color in a landscape of brown, underscoring the hope that the things will start to warm up and start acting more normal.

 

Can you practically smell that luscious hyacinth scent?!

Not sure what this tall tree-like shrub is, but the droopy, whorled seed heads were  intriguing. Note to self: keep an eye on this one as it begins to leaf out.

You know spring has definitely arrived when this ‘flower‘ shows up. The common dandelion is already out in full force. Although temps will be somewhat cool today and snow is forecast for the weekend, the past few days of 60’s and 70’s F have been most welcome. And that welcome seems to be on display on the lovely flowers we encountered around our neighborhood after being frequently buried in white stuff. Daffodils are shouting in bright yellow, deep purple hyacinths rich with that heavenly scent and brilliant red tulips have likewise been calling attention to their spring arrival. I noticed some leaf budding on lilac bushes. Wasn’t sure if I’d see spring with the seemingly endless cold winter, let alone what it might look like, but yesterday’s walk-about, reassured me that spring has definitely sprung in the 303.

Sam and Elsa also seem to be noticing fresh, new smells too. They walk with noses down  to the ground, inhaling the scents of spring. That, or they’re reading a canine version of War and Peace. Sam rarely looks up, instead preferring to keep his nose close to the action. He seems to be a slow reader whereas Elsa’s nose gesticulates up and down, back and forth, getting the Cliff Notes version of olfactory clues. Then again, she could be ‘reading’ classified ads for dogs. Who can tell with these guys? All I can say with any certainty is they seem to be enjoying the landscape as much as me.

Whatever your plans include this weekend, we hope it has loads of fun and remarkable beauty.

Tulip

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ March 22, 2019

Happy Friday! Spring officially arrived this week and despite the potential for more spring rain and snowstorms, just seeing it’s officially spring on the calendar now seems to have made a difference with our moods. We join our hosts, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard, for this week’s edition of the Nature Friday Blog Hop.

We’ve been seeing lots of spring bulbs teasing us that spring was on its way (only to be three weeks. With the official arrival of spring, something magical even occurred in our own garden. Yesterday I noticed a small flash of pale blue in some ground cover and thought maybe a wrapper had blown in and gotten stuck. To my surprise, some blue grape hyacinths planted a couple of seasons ago have started to naturalize amongst the Vinca. These little cuties known as Muscari come in shades of white, blue, and purple. They  are very easy to grow and aren’t the slightest bit fussy about soil conditions and will thrive in sun or light shady conditions. My original group was planted several feet south of where they were now and I was charmed to see how far they’ve migrated. I don’t mind another ‘caravan on the march’ and think the garden will be richer for these new additions. The buffet table was set for lunch and noticed the season’s first bees noshing away (bee is located on the back side of the tallest Muscari). Once the photos were downloaded, I also noticed the season’s first ladybug to the right near the shortest flower.

Muscari should be planted in early fall so moisture can nourish them before winter sets in. Plant in groups of ten or more, setting the bulbs twice as deep as they’re tall, and at least a couple of inches apart. Leaves will appear shortly after planting in the autumn but can be ignored. The flower spikes will arrive in spring when you most need to see colors other than tan and brown.

Hyacinths

The crocuses are just starting in my garden but we’ve encountered numerous ones around the ‘hood. They are one of my favorite spring bulbs. the bees sure seem to enjoy them as much as I do, for different reasons. This little guy had sacks of pollen on his legs.

Crocuses should be planted in late summer to early fall and require a minimum of 15 weeks of chilling to break dormancy known as vernalization. Planting times differ from other species and for best results should be planted 6 to 8 weeks before the first expected frost allowing a sturdy root system to develop before going dormant. If soil consists of clay, amend with organic matter, plant 5 inches deep with the flat side down and around 1 to 2 inches apart.

Did you know that saffron comes from the saffron crocus bulbs (Crocus sativus), an autumn blooming crocus? The spice is the red stigmas of its flower. Each flower only produces three stigmas and each saffron crocus bulb will only produce one flower. Now you know why saffron threads are so pricy. You’re welcome.

As for seeing ladybugs, did you know seeing them is considered a sign of good luck? We hope that luck works with digital sightings as well. May the luck of ladybugs grace you and hope your weekend is filled with all good things.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ March 15, 2019

Nature FridayWhile today is the Ides of March, we’re joining the fun with our friends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in Our Backyard for this week’s edition of the Nature Friday Blog Hop. According to the ancient Roman calendar, the Ides signaled the first full moon of the month, which generally occurred between the 13thand 15th of each month. Though most of us associate the Ides of March as the day Julius Caesar was assassinated. Et tu Brute.

After this week’s “bomb cyclone,” with hurricane-force winds, extensive power outages (some still in effect today) and 8-12″ of snow and drifts, we thought we’d prefer to focus on the softer side of Mother Nature instead of her damaging impact on the environment.

This weekend is St. Patrick’s Day and a much better way to share a spot of nature by celebrating with some lucky ‘clover?’ While Oxalis is not a true clover (it’s part of the Wood Sorrell family), it does look like a plant most associated with St. Patrick’s Day (beyond hops in beer), the four-leaf clover. I’ve had this plant well over a decade and while it looks a bit bedraggled due to some inconsistent watering of late…my bad, this little guy makes my Irish heritage on my Dad’s side, smile. It recently finished blooming small white flowers. When grown outdoors, shamrocks tend to be somewhat invasive nature as their fast-spreading tuberous roots spread like wildfire. Indoors, they can brighten a sunny windowsill nicely as a charming houseplant.

St. Patrick's Day

As a nod to St. Patrick’s Day, Sam graciously agreed to pose for a photo shoot this morning while his sister, Elsa said “not no how, not no way and I don’t care what kind of treats you’re using as a bribe are involved.” Guess Ninja’s don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Still, everyone at the Ranch sends our best wishes for a fun and Happy St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

St. Patrick's Day
Erin go Bragh!

Live, love, bark! 🐾