Sunday, December 29, 2013

Dirt: The New Prozac

In a recent Outside Magazine article entitled "The Pursuit of Happiness," I found one of the "life-improving strategies" of particular interest.  
It is simply...

Get Dirty.    

 "Dirt may be the new Prozac. Working in soil raises your spirits, in part because you pick up cheerful germs while digging. University of Colorado researcher Christopher Lowry injected mice with dirt-dwelling Mycobacterium vaccae and found increased serotonin in the critters’ prefrontal cortex. Getting your own dose is as easy as taking a walk in the wilderness or planting something. You don’t need to wait until spring: even in the dead of winter you can sprout basil seeds in a pot on your sunniest windowsill."

You know, I always say, "A day without dirt under your nails is like a day without sunshine."  Who knew what I was really saying all along was, "A day without Mycobacterium vaccae under your nails is like a day without serotonin." :-)

As we start a new year with all kinds of often unreasonable, unattainable resolutions and goals, I think this is one resolution we can actually keep.

So get out there (or in) and get some Mycobacterium vaccae under your nails, and have a...

Happy New Year!  

Toni :-)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Noel Love

"Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord,
That hath made heaven and earth of nought,
And with his blood mankind has bought
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel"
(The First Noel)

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Toni :-) 

Pictures from my garden...
N - flagstone path
o - birdhouse
e - wall hanging iron scroll
L - flower pot carving
o - flower pot handle
v - arbor iron scroll
e - potting bench iron scroll

created using piZap

Monday, December 16, 2013

Fall Leaves an Impression on Winter

Usually the leaves fall before the snow flies, but this year it was just the opposite.   When our weather went from balmy to brrr in just a matter of hours, the freezing rain and sleet fell before the trees had a chance to drop their leaves.

My neighbors' pretty Shumard Red Oak

At first the winter scene was rather impressive, but then in no time at all the white stuff was littered with fallen leaves.


Even though the temps remained at freezing or below for an impressive number of hours, the ice started to melt where the leaves were lying, leaving their impression in the frosty surface.

The leaves didn't make a lasting impression, because thankfully now that the temps have increased,  winter's brief presence is dwindling fast.

Now all I am left with is the carnage after the freeze.  Everywhere I look, the plants seem to be saying, "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!"

My beloved giant leopard plant,
once impressing me with its large shiny leaves...
... now looks like a deflated parachute!

The elephant ears are a big pile of green mush over a big pile of ice.  
Not too impressive, huh?

I'm not too impressed with the skunk-like odor 
of the frozen society garlic either.

I am, however, very impressed by the spicy fragrance that the Mexican mint marigold gives off even in its less-than-impressive condition.

And I'm also impressed at the resilience of the little plant they call... 
...a "pansy" 

If this leaves you with the impression that I don't much care for winter, that's just about right.    On the other hand, icy cold days do force me to stay inside and at least make an attempt at getting more organized.     And any time I can get a little more organized...well, that's pretty impressive!

For a look at some other impressive foliage, 
visit Pam @ Digging for Foliage Follow-Up.

Toni :-)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Frozen in Time

In my last post I shared pictures of the icy blast that hit our area the first week of December.

I have a decorative birdhouse that sits on the top shelf of my potting bench.   As you can see, it (along with everything else in my yard) was covered with ice.

As I looked closer at the icicles hanging from the roof of the birdhouse, I was amazed to see this single droplet of water frozen in a moment of time, suspended on a single strand of silk from a spider web.

It made me think about the critical timing of all of the elements that went into creating this scene.

 The spider had to spin this strand of silk at some point before it got too cold for the spider to survive the freezing temps, yet not so long ago that the strand could have been destroyed.   And then the rain had to fall in just the right spot that it landed on this strand, and the temperature had to be just the right degree to freeze this droplet of water before it fell off the strand.

Sometimes it's the little things in life that I marvel at most.

I hope during this busy holiday season that you are not so overwhelmed by the big things that you miss the opportunity to marvel at the little things.

Toni :-)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

From Balmy to Brrrr

The first week of December in North Central Texas was a very interesting week of weather.

We started out the week quite balmy, with temperatures in the 70s.  Early Monday morning a light fog had rolled in and created a beautiful photo op as the sun was rising.

We have had a couple freezes this fall already, but only down to about 30 degrees.   Some of the most tender perennials were burned, but other perennials were not even fazed.    Some of the trees had already lost their leaves, some were at peak color, and some were just beginning to turn.

As the fog burned off later Monday morning, the Japanese maples in my garden were showing off their finest fall color.

Tuesday was a sunny and warm day, my kind of December :-)  I went with a client to my favorite Japanese maple nursery, Metro Maples, with the intention of purchasing some maples for her garden, but I just couldn't resist the urge to buy another maple for my garden, as well!

I came home with a new maple is called 'Koto No Ito,' which means "String of Old Harp."  It has an upright form with narrow strap leaves that have green spring color and yellow/orange/red fall colors.
I planted the new maple on Wednesday when it was sunny and 78 degrees! 

I originally had a 'Peaches & Cream' maple in this spot, but I transplanted it across the bed where I thought its highly variegated summer leaves would brighten a dark spot.
The 'Peaches & Cream' maple was added to my garden in December of 2010, and this is the first year I have seen good fall color on it.

Thursday morning the temperatures had dropped to the 40s (tolerable), but the forecast was calling for the temps to continue to drop throughout the day, with freezing rain and sleet arriving late afternoon and evening (not so tolerable).   

I knew this was probably going to be my last opportunity to get some good pictures of the fall color in my garden, so I grabbed my camera and headed outside to memorialize this beautiful season.

      In the picture below you can see the new orange 'Koto No Ito' to the right front, and the similarly fall colored 'Peaches & Cream' is behind the bench now on the other side of the bed.

 'Sango Kaku' (Coral Bark) Maple (below - center) has been more yellow in years past, but this year it is showing lots of red color.

I think this is one of the prettiest fall color seasons I have seen in the 27 years I have lived in Texas.  A little bit of rain this fall, cool nights, and sunny days have created the perfect environment for a spectacular fall show.

'Orange Dream'
'Tamukeyama' (foreground)  -  'Viridis' (background)
'Sango Kaku'

By late Thursday afternoon the temperatures had dropped into the 20s and the precipitation started falling...and freezing.  

On Friday morning my garden looked like this...brrrrr!
Thankfully I had drained and cleaned the fountain on Wednesday when it was nice and warm outside.   

The front hellstrip perennials are now under a covering of ice.  

 The Yaupon Holly tree in the front is splayed open from the weight of the ice.   Back in the winter of 2011 we lost several feet out of the top of this tree from the weight of about a foot of snow that fell in February.  
I am hoping once the ice melts it will be okay.

In the backyard, the arbor cover over the patio is dripping with tiny icicles.

The ornamental grasses near the pond that usually sway in the breeze are frozen stiff.

The maples that were so beautiful just one day earlier are now covered in ice and droop from the weight of the ice.


"He gives snow like wool;
He scatters the frost like ashes.
He casts forth His ice as fragments;
Who can stand before His cold?
He sends forth His word and melts them;
He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow."
Psalm 147:16-18

So until God sends a few warm breezes to thaw the ice that blankets our area, I guess I will just hunker down under a cozier type of blanket in my nice warm house, and treasure a few quiet days.

Take care....and stay warm!

Toni :-)