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Stretchy Beauty

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hibiscus sinensis "Creole Lady," a Logee's "Cajun" hybrid.

After such an extravagantly beautiful fall, I'm trying to land softly. I retreat to the greenhouse a lot, several times a day, to coo to my plants and see who's having a party, or planning one soon. 

Clearly, Jasminum sambac is up for a good time. Buds about to pop!
 There's nothing quite like opening the door to a little greenhouse full of jasmine, in grayest November.

All my geranium cuttings and slips are bursting forth with growth and blossoms.  Happy Thought Red is even sending up flowers! You may remember the enormous plant I had last year.  In this picture, it's at least 4' across. Well, its cutting children are racing to catch up with Mama, who I left to the frost. Too big to haul in again.

From back: Happy Thought Red, Vesuvius and Vancouver Centennial, summer of 2016.

The rightmost geranium is all that's left of my enormous Vancouver Centennial plant, that I grew for three years, summer and winter. (See the summer shot, above). Unlike any other Vancouver Centennial I've had, it bloomed nonstop. But it got old and rickety, then died back to just a couple of shoots in the very center. That's OK. I hacked the dead part off, along with most of the roots, plopped what was still alive in a small pot, and off she goes again. Is it any wonder I adore this plant, and geraniums in general? I'm anxious to keep the genetic material of this individual, though, because it blooms so freely.

Here's an individual I had some years ago. Chestnut leaves, edged chartreuse. But no scarlet flowers. It's borrowed some from a fuchsia. Durn thing never bloomed. I loved it for its foliage, but I love the one I've got now more. 

The tiny green geranium in the foreground, in the smallest pot, is all that's left of the stellar geranium "Grafitti," which I call "Scarlet Tanager." I got it May 1, 2006, a day I'll never forget, and that geranium has lived through two total greenhouse freezes. This is how close I came to losing it--down to one unhealthy cutting. 
 And it's tiny, but it's making buds, and beginning to show a little vigor.  Grafitti, don't fail me now. If you'll just grow, I'll make a bunch of cuttings so I don't lose you, ever.

All this burgeoning joy offsets what's going on outside, which is the natural death and resultant cleanup of my summer gardens. Whap!! I slash the dead morning glory vines off their trellises and throw them on the compost pile. I take joy in the cleanup. Who wants to look at dead flowers? I like 'em alive. And I've got the greenhouse to scurry to when I need it.

I was extremely bummed to find the cause of the sudden death of one of my carefully cultivated birch seedlings--a bronze birch borer. @#$$#@$#@!!! I was able to snap the dead trunk off and found this awful creature inside. Now I'm dreading seeing the adult borers' D-shaped exit holes on my big trees. I'm afraid I'll lose all my birches. I haven't looked, on purpose. Too much loss lately. Either they're gonna die, or they're gonna live. I'll look for the exit holes tomorrow, if I'm feeling strong. And if they're all infested, I'll replant with river birches, which are resistant to the freakin' beetle. I must have birches. 

Ugly little sucker. I put him in the sunflower heart feeder for the titmice to find. At least it's a native insect, unlike the emerald ash borer that's killing all our ash trees.

Chicago Peace's last blossom struggles like hell to open in the cold winds of November. I know just how she feels. Someone suggested I cut it and bring it inside. But that would end its story.  I'd put it in a vase and forget about it. Leaving it on the plant, I love watching it, checking on it every day. It threw out one lower petal since I took this shot. A bud that would open in a couple of days is taking weeks. And I love it. Clearly, she's still alive, but not fully alive. She's hanging in there.

A fox sparrow appeared on Nov. 21, a prince among paupers. And then he was gone. 

And on the 15th, a small juvenile male sharp-shinned hawk came rocketing through the feeder area, landing on the ground under my studio window. I was puzzled to see him hop a few steps, then pounce on a female cardinal who was frozen in terror right in front of him.

I hadn't even seen her in the brown fallen leaves until he nabbed her. 

 God, what a beauty he was, like a raw nerve. I kept shooting. It looked like he wasn't doing much, but I knew he was gripping like hell, slowly squeezing the life out of her. Every once in awhile he'd shift his grip and squeeze someplace else. The idea being to weaken her before he takes off, so she won't struggle free or start flapping and work out of his grip.

 My last shot. Good-bye, cardinal. You're sharpie fuel now.

Yes, there's beauty at every turn, as long as your definition of beauty is stretchy enough to include death, decay, destruction and rebirth. Thank God, mine is. 


Those last 2 sentences are classic Zick! (in fact , they are classic, period). Love it!

"Life lives on life." - Joseph Campbell

Tears to the eyes. Heartbreak but also full of awe at nature.

I just love to see what's going on in your world. I laughed when I read what you did with the borer. When I'm splitting wood for the fire I have a little cup for any little things like that and they go right out to my Chickadees & Titmice too. I envy you all your pretty and good smelling flowers in your greenhouse. Thanks for sharing all the photos!

We lost our white birch to borers, too. We had it cut down, but there was a bit of stump left in the ground. Don't you know that saplings emerged from it, and now we have a multi-trunked young birch growing in its place. Not only does life feed on life, but also it sometimes emerges from death.

Poignant & perfect.
Thanks again for you and your wonderful words.

Some kind of borer has killed two of my Norway maples. Harrumph. We have one more huge maple left. I don't know if it is infested or not.... Beautiful photos, as always.... ❤️

Thanks for this post, I think. Just planted a birch this fall at my mother's home and am now going to obsess about borer potential. The last two lines are resounding and remind me of a StoryPeople quote about outlook. I read it every day: "deciding everything is falling in to place perfectly as long as you don't get too picky about what you mean by place. Or perfectly." It makes me smile. Kim in PA

I always like those startLing surprises when you get a glimpse of Nature in action.

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