Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chickens!

 So what's been occupying me this year so much that I've greatly neglected this garden blog?  Well, it's mostly been chickens.  I spent quite a bit of time early this spring building my backyard chicken coop in preparation for a small flock of chickens.  I figured that with our family 10 chickens would be about right.  I ordered 12 so we could stand losing some of them.  We actually got 22 because the hatchery added 10 extra roosters for warmth in shipping.  (By the way, hatcheries refer to these extra roosters as "packing peanuts.")  Each of my kids got to pick one variety of chicken, plus I picked some others.  We wound up with Buckeyes, Austrolorps, Barred Plymouth Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Buff Cochins, Silver Laced Wyandottes, and the extra roosters are all Blue Cochins.


This is the coop as it was being built.


The coop took me much longer to build and cost a lot more than I anticipated.  I tried to build it nearly bulletproof so my chicks would be totally safe from predators.  


The finished coop with my oldest daughter playing with the chickens.

As it turns out, the Blue Cochin roosters that were thrown in with our order have become favorites with our kids because of their tame and cuddly nature.  Cochins are known to be some of the most docile of all chickens.  We plan to keep at least one of these beautiful roosters.  



Chickens lined up in the loft of the coop.



One of the Blue Cochin roosters



A Buff Orpington hen



Buckeye and Barred Plymouth Rock 

My kids have named every one of these chickens and have handled them to the point that all are pretty tame.  They are loads of fun to sit down and watch.  Bring them treats and they will swarm you.  We can't wait for first eggs which should start around September.  Now I'm also wanting ducks and geese....



Friday, May 25, 2012

Herb Gardening.


I have to admit that I love herbs.  They spice up foods deliciously, they make drinks more delectable, they have health benefits galore, and most have fragrances that delight the nasal palate.  Add to this the fact that they are very attractive plants and you have a most dynamic combo.  Did I mention that many of them are highly attractive to butterflies and bees too?  I've just got to have them!


Many of the herbs in my yard are planted in this 4 x 4 raised bed.  At the back are Lemon verbena, common sage, French lavender, and Genovese Basil.  Just in front of the Lemon verbena is a Cinnamon Basil.  In the front are Lemon Basil, Pineapple sage, and oregano.  Raised beds are a good bet for herbs in the Southeast because they offer well-drained soil which is essential for many herbs that originate in the dry soils of the Mediterranean region.   I have plans to finish filling out this bed in the future.  I definitely don't have enough basil!

Some other herbs that I have planted around my yard are bronze fennel, dill, rosemary, parsley, garlic chives, and onion chives.  In containers I have chocolate mint, spearmint, and lemon balm.  There are so many myriad uses for these herbs that I could literally have a blog entry for each one - any maybe I will in the future.  For those of you that want a quick start, then I recommend basil, rosemary, and any of the mints.  These plants are practically unkillable.  In fact, don't plant mint where you don't want it to take over.  Rosemary thrives on neglect, as long as it is in full sun.  Basil grows like a weed and is delicious.  Get started in herbs and you'll never be able to stop.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Superieur" than Most


In my growing up years I always admired the sweetly fragrant, profuse, and healthy roses that my Paw-paw grew in his yard.  We were forever picking bouquets of these cute little rose blooms to bring in to Maw-maw and make her day.  When I grew up, I realized that these roses were the heirloom China rose that is seen all over the South, Cramoisi Superieur.  


The blooms are crimson with darker petals on the outer edge and lighter ones inside.  The size is rather small, usually no more than 3" in diameter.  The fragrance is a light, but noticeably sweet one that is very pleasant.  



This plant blooms almost year round in the South.  This year's mild winter really made for non-stop blooms.  They are especially profuse in the spring.  



My plant has not reached full size yet.  It came from a cutting off my Paw-paw's roses.  I wanted to get mine from his roses because of the memories.  This is one of the healthiest roses on the planet.  I have never sprayed it and I have yet to see any disease on this plant.  The leaves are a rich bluish-green that contrast well with the crimson flowers.  This is also one of the easiest roses of all to propagate from cuttings, which makes it easy to pass along to friends and family.  Highly recommended for the no care yard!


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Cant" Get Enough




I can never get enough of Mrs. B. R. Cant.  This old tea rose is such a stellar performer in our hot, humid climate that it newly astounds me each year.  This plant only gets better each year.  The full blooms are lush and many-petaled.



The buds are a perfect silvery pink that would look nice pinned to a tux.



The profusion of blooms is the most noticeable trait, especially in the first flush.  I can't think of a rose that is more covered in bloom during the spring flush.  



The leaves are a lovely deep green that set off the blooms to perfection.  You see little disease.  The yellow leaves on this plant are just the yearly shedding of old leaves to be replaced by new ones.  Because of our mild winter this year, my specimen stayed green all winter long.



It makes huge flushes of bloom followed by a slight rest, but nearly always has at least a few blooms on it.  



This is a picture to show the size of my plant.  It's nearly 8' tall and about as wide.  I have it against the front chain-link fence.  I can barely smell the tea-like fragrance, but it's still detectable.  Some people can smell this fragrance much better than others.  This rose is just as care-free as the Knockout roses for me, but it gets far bigger.  It makes a huge statement in any yard and would look lovely as a solo specimen in the middle of a large area.