Friday, February 26, 2010

I'm not Gardening in Kansas anymore

I'm experiencing some climate shock.  No, not the winter.  That's just misery, not shocking.  I'm talking about a map I saw in a new catalog.  The catalog is from High Country Gardens and if you live West of the Mississippi you should check it out.  

The map is not a zone map but a wetness map.  It tells you if you can successfully grow plants they list as Xeric or Very Xeric.
And yet again Blogger insists on posting this image sideways.  I need to figure out how to fix that.

I can't.  Which is going to be hard since some of my favorite perennials are in this catalog - lots of types of Agastache, Penstemon, and Salvias.  I realized that when I picture a garden I base my mental plant selection on what I've seen in drier climates (and on drier blogs - all you prolific bloggers from Texas!).  Now I'm holding my breath to see if some of the drought tolerant plants are going to survive the water logged soil of the New England spring (don't worry, I'll automatically start breathing again once I pass out).  I guess I need to find some local gardens, New England garden blogs (if you know of any give me a comment) and shift my thoughts away from drought and heat tolerant plants.  It's a whole new world of options out there.

Oh, and yes, we did get some very windy weather out of that last storm.  It drove this branch into the ground.

But we didn't get snow, we got rain.  The rain washed the snow away and I went out for a peak at the garden.  Here's what I found:


These Violas (Johnny Jump Ups?) show up in the perennial beds.  
My neighbor considers them weeds.  I call them volunteers.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Whales in Captivity

This is not a gardening post.  It is a post about the recent death of a Killer Whale trainer at the jaws of a whale she probably loved and had worked with for years.  This piece includes opinions that might not agree with yours but they are well thought out, intelligent, informed and therefore completely correct.

I have not worked with Killer Whales.  In fact my experience with live marine mammals has been quite limited.  I picked up a few injured and sick seals and sea lions when I lived in California but I then transported them to another facility for care.  Recently I've worked with deceased cetaceans, doing necropsies (autopsies) on stranded individuals.  [This is the least likely to be offensive image.]

Yes, that is a small whale under the sheet and I'm setting up my "bench" to take tissue samples
I have, however, worked with a wide range of wild and exotic animals in a wide range of situations.  I've worked with injured and orphaned wildlife (including coyotes, bobcats, a wide range of birds)

This bobcat had to be anesthetized for a veterinary examination and for attachment of a radio collar.  She had eaten one or more poisoned rats and gotten secondary poisoning.  She survived with treatment and went on to have at least one litter of cubs in a hollow tree at a golf course.
I've worked with exotic carnivores that were former "pets" or from other captive situations that needed a long term home (this is not a good position to be in with a tiger but I've known this individual since he was two weeks old and he's a nice cat.  He's also still a cub in this photo.  This is the last time I went into a cage with him.).

One of the tigers behind us is the one pictured in the cub shot. further down.  Freya has been frisky since she was born and is now a very, very dangerous cat.   She thinks it's fun to watch people jump.
I don't have pictures of it but I've also worked in a zoo situation.  I wanted to see for myself how the animals are treated before I decided if zoos are a good thing or a bad thing.

Pilling a Pelican is no easy task.

What do I think?  I think on the whole a well run zoo is a good thing for animals.  I believe that people have a hard time loving that which they do not know.  While talking the kids to the zoo doesn't get them to know the  individual animals it does get them interested.  And interested people will try to save the few remaining wild places for those animals.  And that is a good thing for all of us.  Life is so much richer with wilderness out there, even if we don't visit it regularly.

That scruffy little thing is a coyote puppy.  It was later released into the wild, after we taught it to hunt.
I also think that some animals should not be in captivity.  I'm pleased to hear that zoos are changing the way they handle elephants.  Elephants need large enclosures, stable social situations and lots of mental stimulation.  I'd like to see them change the way they handle bears.  Bears need large enclosures and lots of mental stimulation.  I have worked with zoo bears and they were very hard to keep stimulated and sane.

I have no problem with the big cats in captivity.  I've worked with them and they really don't need as much space per body size as you would expect.  Big cats, like house cats, sleep a lot.  If you've every been to Africa you have seen lions in the wild doing the same thing, sleeping.  Under the tour buses if they can sneak under there without the driver starting the engine.

 Freya tiger the first time she met people.  She already knew she didn't like us.

Birds in captivity can be tricky.  Some do well, some do not.  I like the large aviaries with lots of room to fly or the outdoor areas for cranes, ducks and geese.  They need a lot of space because they are so messy.

    That's me sticking a pill down the throat of a barn owl.
Finally on to Killer Whales.  Based on research I've done on the issue I believe they should not be in captivity.  Most of the Killer Whales who have been in captivity have been wild caught and have had a very, very short life span once in the captive situation.  Killer Whales are extremely dangerous to work with and have killed quite a few trainers (and at least one idiot who climbed the fence at night).  The whale in this week's incident has been involved in THREE human deaths.  

But what about Bottle Nosed dolphins?  There I'm less sure of myself.  The ones I have seen in captivity all seemed happy and thriving.  I know there are places in Florida that let their dolphins out when hurricanes are coming so they can get into deep water where it's safer.  The dolphins come back.  That tells me that they appreciate the free meal and can't be too unhappy with the situation.  I suspect with them it's a case of how good is the facility and the staff.

So there's my $0.05 (inflation, thoughts used to cost $0.02 but everything is more expensive now. I wonder if I should charge more because of my vast experience and highly over educated brain?). I'm not surprised by the incident.  I seldom am when a captive wild animal kills a person.  It's so easy to forget that these are wild animals and they will not behave the same way domesticated animals do.  Thousands of years of evolution shape the behavior of your dog and cat so that they are significantly less likely to hurt you than a wolf or a serval.  They'll enjoy your company more, too.

Zaynah Serval getting a whiff of a scent filled pizza box.  One of her favorite forms of enrichment.
Thanks for reading.  It was a great excuse to post some of my favorite pictures of myself.

Necropsy work was done with the New England Aquarium.
Wild animals were handled when I was on staff at the California Wildlife Center
Tigers were born to a mother who had been confiscated by the USDA and arrived at the Conservators' Center already pregnant (believe me they didn't need more tigers).  Zaynah Serval was a former pet who also found a permanent home there.  There are more exotic cats that need placement than sanctuaries or zoos for them to live in.  Please, please don't get an exotic animal as a pet, see your local animal shelter instead!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hints of Spring

I'm starting to see hints that spring might be coming.  I know it's too early.  We have more snow in the forecast for this week.  Still.  There are suggestions that spring can't be too far away.

1)  I'm loosing interest in my houseplants.  Well, let me rephrase that.  I'm not rushing out buying more every week and I'm thinking of which ones are seasonal houseplants that will be gone soon (like the primroses that need to be watered too frequently).  I'm running three humidifiers in the house but even with that the air is dry and the plants are needing a lot of TLC.  Several need repotting but I'll need to make space for bigger pots.  How long until I can put the oregano and the thyme back outside?  How about the Rosemary in the garage which seems to have miraculously survived the winter?  Will my Salvia elegans (Pineapple sage) come back this spring when I bring the pot out of the basement and start watering it again?

This is in contrast to commenter Melody who got inspired by my recent postings.  I checked out here blog (here) and found she lives in Florida.  Melody, if I lived in Florida I'm not sure I would have many houseplants!  I would rather have wide open windows to view the outdoor gardens all year round.

Then again there is this, which helps keep my interest.

2)  The snow is receding and it's starting to get muddy out.  Spring in New England is known as mud season.  That means the ground isn't completely frozen anymore.  This patch of mud is by the back fence (behind the fence is a protected natural area).  The dogs are starting to track it in. 

3)  With the snow receding our dog Piper is able to start her collection.  She likes to collect things and put them in a pile in the yard.  Hey!  That's the perch to my bird feeder!  I was wondering where that went.

4)  Out front where we still have snow I saw this little bit of lavender sticking up through the snow.  Promises that summer will come.

5)  Tucked up under the remains of a Mexican Feather Grass the daffodils are starting to show.  Yipee!!!

6)  This isn't really a sign of spring but I did like the way this Viburnum burkwoodii kept its dark leaves all winter.  They looked really good against the snow.

Oh, and I'm starting to hear birds singing.  I'm so excited.  I can't wait to get back outside in the garden.  How long until planting season?  Of yeah, that's not till April.  March is going to be a long month.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Foliage Follow Up

The day after Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is becoming known as Foliage Follow Up (thanks to Pam at Digging).  Since it's snowing outside (and since I posted all of by not-dried-up-dead-looking outdoor foliage yesterday) I went around the house with my camera.  Wow.  I really pick houseplants for foliage!  I like blooming houseplants but most of mine don't bloom and many of those have interesting variegation.  I have posted scientific names where I can find them, unfortunately most houseplants come without names.  Those plants, if I can't identify them, get named George (unless I follow in Carol's footsteps and name them myself, although all of the Genus designations are real). 

Here's George II.  From above he has dark leaves with a hint of purple but when back lit and observed from below - love those veins!

This is a trailing ficus (Ficus trailingus).

Here is an umbrella plant (Schefflera variagata var. hopefullydwarfii).

This Croton came to me as Banana Fingers. 

Here's my Cuban Oregano (a nice passalong plant)

This is  possibly a Pothos.

I think this one is in the Aloe family.  You can see where it got beat up when The Husband wasn't careful about closing the blinds (it's in your vows, honey, everything is your fault, remember?).

Here's a beautiful golden leaved philodendron.  It's so nice I took two pictures.

This Pepperomia is also a passalong plant.  Looks like it needs a shower. It's upstairs and since our upstairs shower leaks it doesn't get washed as often as the downstairs plants.

This was a fun find.  I saw this for sale at a Big Box Retailer and snatched it up.  It took a while to find online but I did - it's a Rhipsalis, not found for sale very often but what a great plant.  I'm starting a list of people who want divisions when it gets big enough.

Lastly a humble Spider Plant (Chlorophytum).  This one was sold as Curly Sue.  She's not really humble.

Whew.  Finally got the Italics turned off.  I'm not sure why it won't let me type that middle section in normal script.  Gotta love these free software applications.

GBBD follow-up:  Thanks to everyone for the nice comments yesterday.  I didn't realize anyone beside The Husband, The Mom and The Best Friend From Grad School actually read my blog.  Wow.  I guess I'd better start coming up with more interesting content and actually break out the tripod and take better pictures! 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers NOT Bloom Day

Today is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, a meme started by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.  But for the past few months I've been posting the same plants, all houseplants.  My begonias are still blooming, as are my cyclamen, my primroses and my mystery purple blooming plant I call George III.  Look at last month's post and you'll see them there.  So today I'm trying to look forward to spring (it must be coming, right? right?) and took the camera out into the yard to see if there are any signs of spring.  Here's what I found.

My Forsythia (Bigboxus cheapus) look like they gave up and quit.  Are there even any buds there?

My Lacecap Hydrangea (Lady in Red) looks like a clump of paint brushes dipped in black ink.

Here's a nice spot of color, Cornus hesseii Garden Glow.  I've been really pleased with these, they have pale green foliage all summer, brightening up a shady spot in the backyard.

These Azalea (Girard's Fuscia) look dry (the ground is frozen) and have so signs of bud swelling that would indicate spring is on its way.

I planted these pansies last year.  I wonder if they'll bloom again in the spring.

My Pieris previousownerii hold their flower buds all winter and bloom early.  They look real good all winter.  Unfortunately they have to move.  They were planted wayyyyy too close to the house and our house needs to get painted (and have some siding repaired) this year.  I hope they survive the move.

Lastly, a nice fat bud on a Rhododendron dontknowii.  I think this is a dwarf variety, it's very, very small.  I like the way this bud looks during the winter. 

Not shown:  no sign of spring blooming bulbs popping up.  No signs of green on any of the perennials.  No hint of leafing out on any of the trees.

Hopefully next month I'll have something to show in the garden.  Or maybe the month after.  Thank goodness for houseplants and garden catalogs!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Before the Storm

We're supposed to get hit today by the storm that's been rolling across the country.  By the time it gets here it might just be a snowfall of 4-8 inches.  Not a bad storm by New England standards.  

I decided to do a few things to get ready anyway.  Yesterday I slipped out and snapped a few pictures of the front yard.

And this one of my Fothergilla gardenii Blue Mist.  

Not a great shot but in the upper right corner you can see my snow board.  That's where I measure new snowfall for CoCoRaHS.  I use the board so that I can more easily remove the existing snow to get a new snowfall total every day.  I took this photo because I could see large buds.  It makes me hopeful for spring.

The big job was, of course, making sure the wild birds are taken care of.  I scrubbed and refilled the heated bird bath.  It keeps the water thawed.  I haven't seen it frozen over yet and we've had temps in the teens.  I'm quite happy with it.

Below the bird bath I have our Christmas tree.  It's look a bit worse for wear but the birds LOVE it.  When I go outside it's usually full of juncos or sparrows.  Next year I plan to have a line of native grasses along the deck so I'll have to put the tree elsewhere.  Maybe leaning against the fence (on the outside!  One of my dogs would be sure to climb it if it was on the inside).

And then there's food.  I ran out this morning and got a couple of bags of seed mixes.  I usually get my mix from a wild bird store about 20 minutes away but I didn't want to take the time to drive out there this morning (I still have to finish lecture for tonight's class) so I bought two bags and mixed them to get approximately what I want.  Hope the birds like it.

Lastly there's suet.  Suet is technically treated beef fat.  I bought some this morning.  I'm out of cornmeal.  What do those two sentences have to do with each other?  Well, I usually make a homemade suet substitute.  The birds like it better than the store bought suet blocks.  It's one cup of Crisco (full fat), melted, plus one cup of peanut butter (smooth or crunchy), melted, plus two cups of cornmeal.  I pour this into about three "disposable" Tupperware containers and refrigerate.  It's cheap, easy, and the birds love it.  But I'm out of cornmeal and didn't want to make an extra stop at the grocery store this morning.  Hope the birds like the store bought stuff.

Well, the snow is starting to fall and I haven't received notice that the college is canceling evening classes so I'd better get back to work on the lecture.  I figure they'll cancel classes about the time I finish it up.

UPDATE:  We got a whopping quarter of an inch of snow.  Not impressed.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Weed and Feed Ban in Canada

Found this on Garden Rant.  Go to for the original post.  I consider this great news.  Have you ever tried to find fertilizer without pesticide or herbicide at the Big Box stores?  The Weed and Feed is up front, easy to find, but straight fertilizer?  Usually tucked away in a back row. 

There is not point in applying pesticides and herbicides just in case.  It's like taking Antibiotics because someone sneezed on you.  You don't need it and overuse of any product just leads to resistance.  And the extra ends up in the water supply. 

Oh, and would you like me to get on my soap box about how pesticide and herbicide overuse is bad for your health and that of your pets and children?  Sorry, don't have the time today.  Working on writing an exam for my Bio 101 class.  Maybe I can use this to write a question...  Data analysis anyone?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

House Plant Census

Mr Mc.Greggor's Daughter has requested a house plant census so I went around this morning to get a head count.

My total?  60.  Not bad.

That's not completely accurate since I counted each TYPE of plant in my water garden (my aquarium) only once.  Those plants grow like weeds would like to grow and I end up composting lots of them every month.  It can be hard to tell where one plant ends and the next begins.  So that's 6.

I have three Spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum).  These are such great plants, so easy, so tolerant of neglect and they clean the air.  [Inhale.]  Ahhhh.

This is a fun plant.  It's related to the snake plant but I'm not sure what it's called.  I'm sure it's a Sansevieria.  It struggled at first but is finally showing some sign of growth.  Yes, those leaves are completely round.  Cool, huh?

Here's an example of buy small, grow large.  It's an umbrella plant (Schefflera arboricola).  This guy was a $3 plant in a 4 inch pot when I bought it last year.  Now it's about time for it to graduate to a larger pot.  

I was surprised to discover that I have 8 orchids of 6 different species.
I have 5 amaryllis that I will keep and try to rebloom.
I have 6 herbs in pots for winter cooking.  The Rosemary will go outside in the spring.  

Oh, wait.  I didn't count the other rosemary that's wintering in the garage.  61.

Better not let The Husband see this number.  He might not appreciate it like I do.  Especially when he realizes I'm on the look-out for a variegated Ficus benjamani and a Meyer's Lemon.  Actually he's already agreed to the Lemon tree.  Fresh lemonade. Yum.

Don't worry, honey, Spring is on the way and then I'll obsess with outdoor plants again.

Monday, February 1, 2010

New Family Members

Let me introduce you to the newest family members here on The Edge.

This is Pirate (that dark patch is only over one eye)

And Lady Gaga

This is Avogadro (we're science geeks here on The Edge.  Avogadro's number is the number of atoms in a unit of measure known as a Mole.  Teaching Chemistry at the college level makes this number very important.   It's 6.022 X 10 raised to the 23 power, by the way)

And lastly Savage (yes, named after Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame)

[Wait, you say.  I thought this was a GARDENING blog.  Well, yes, Garden and Nature.  But it's February and not much is going on in the garden and, since I'm a Hot House Flower I'm not checking out what's going on in Nature very much.  So you'll have to settle for a post about the artificial ecosystem in my office, namely my 55 gallon tank with live plants, fish and snails.]

For those in the know - Lady Gaga and Avogadro are Koi Angelfish while Pirate and Savage are Czech Angelfish (that has to do with the colors, not the species or place of origin).  I have no idea of real genders, and won't until they reach maturity (which might take a year or two).  I'm hoping I have at least one male and one female so I can watch their territorial and breeding behaviors.  In the meantime it will be nice to have fish that I can identify as individuals (instead of Lemon tetras, which all look the same).  

Angelfish are classified as Cichlids, although they are peaceful for a Cichlid.  This means that they are more intelligent than the average fish and will show individual personality traits.  Already they've demonstrated a level of curiosity about me that the tetras never do.  I had trouble getting good pictures (hence the spots from the aquarium surface) because they kept looking at me while I was trying to take pictures!

This should be fun!