Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treat!

Well tonight was the big night for the kids, both young and not so young ... when the cold (and I mean cold!) wind was blowing, the leaves were rattling and there was a definite scent of spookiness in the air ...

Though the weather was wonderful earlier in the day --reaching 70 degrees-- by late afternoon, a strong cold front came whipping through and dropped the temperature by over 30 degrees. We think this dampened some of the trick or treaters' plans, as we only had 55 visitors this year (57 if we count the two dogs who stopped by!). But those who were brave enough to venture out were amply rewarded with treats of candy, toys and pencils ... Our new feature this year -- the coffin of joyful doom -- was popular with the kids, who had to reach into the spooky coffin with a skeleton resting in it, to pull out toy prizes we had been collecting since last year.

As promised, here are the costumes ... in the first shot you can see FuManPhantom (aka IVG) holding forth at the door to help greet (and frighten a good number!) those brave enough to trek up the steps and on to the porch ... Next is her Devildogginess Herself guarding the candy before the kids started arriving. And finally, the scary CrowMan (aka C) shows off his labor of spooky love that took quite some time to assemble. Unfortunately the head is so dark it doesn't show up that well in these pics, but believe me, it's very authentic and creepy! He frightened more than one tonight as he sat in wait for unsuspecting beggars to enter his lair ...

Though we had the usual assortment of kids who threw their costumes together quickly (when will those Scream masks finally go away?), there were some stand outs with some of the kids, most of which seemed to involve Star Wars ... We had a delightful little Jawa with glowing and blinking eyes, as well as our own neighborhood Darth Vader, who arrived in an illuminated Darth suit. A good number of vampires as well ... the usual little princesses and even some toddler cows!

All in all it was a fun night for the gang here (except for the dogs who had to stay in for most of the festivities (4 bounding barkers was too much for our small treating area). But the dogs were also greatly rewarded afterwards with biscuits and beggin strips, so they didn't seem to mind too much. We ghouls later dined on mystery meatballs and cheeses, then watched The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which is actually a pretty good film. Supposedly a true story, it was a more than literate tale that we found appropriate for a cold, windy and definitely spooky night! I hope everyone else's Halloween will be a good one, and we'll treat our visitors here to one more day of images from our haunted house, so do stop by again for more spooky treats tomorrow!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Devil Dog on the prowl!

By popular acclaim, Pepa has donned her Devil outfit just for you as a special Halloween treat! She'll be greeting the kids in her special suit tonight, wagging and guiding them to the big cauldron of candy and toys we have prepared for them. You'll also see Andy here, in his bumblebee outfit (well, it's really Pepa's but she is loaning it to him for the night), though he pulled off the antennae before I got this picture.

Rolly and Lacey were not exactly hiding when I took these, but they were having nothing to do with the costumes! Maybe we'll yet get them to keep something on and I'll post it here later?

That's it for now, as I have to get going and get my regalia on before the trick or treaters start arriving at 6:00 ... Des Moines has a weird tradition for trick or treating ... not only do the kids have to tell a joke to get a treat (and yes, we hear the same old groaners every year that they publish in the DM Register), but they are only allowed to go house to house for a mere two hours! We think that sucks, because we remember going for hours and coming home with huge bags of candy ... so we're extremely generous since they get so little time to beg.

Come back later for pics of the humans in their costumes, and more shots of the decorations ... I'll keep posting more later and throughout tomorrow, so check back often!

And, as you can see in the last shot, Pepa had to head back in to continue her preparations for the Devil Dog's big night!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

BooMan Tribune fOtofair 2006

I neglected earlier to post this link to the 2nd Annual BooMan Tribune fOtofair! For those not familiar with it, it's an annual occasion to show off photography in a community situation. Kind of like a big meta-gallery where anyone can post their work ... well worth checking out, and while you're there, if you're not a regular reader of BT, make it your new habit! A great place to join, blog and meet fascinating people from all over. This blog would not exist if it weren't for BT and those who got me started ....

I encourage you to spend some quality time feasting your eyes on the many talented photographers in the fair ... My humble contribution is on the Sunday list. Here's the link to the master list of fotodiaries!

Stop by and enjoy!

Halloween is nearly here!

The most wonderful time of the year ... at least we think so. And we decorate for the occasion in high spirit as well ... so that's the theme for the next few days ... letting you all know what it looks like around here once the flowers have pretty much expired and the beds become a nice stand in for a graveyard.

We have first, our porch witch denizen, Grizelda, who haunts the porch casting spells with her demons and ghosts in tow ... you'll see more of her soon as well.

Then there are Bucky and LeVorpse, the two garden corpses who show up this time of year, just in time to impress and scare the trick or treaters ... LeVorpse even lights up! Though you can't see his feet here, they are pushing up from the ground.

We'll be getting more pictures taken tomorrow and Tuesday to post here, but these will make a nice teaser of the front porch/garden display for now.

We had our annual Halloween bash last night and it was a smaller, quieter affair this year than in some years, but was great nonetheless to get together with like-minded ghouls who like hanging out in a spooky atmosphere.

Coming soon (tonight or tomorrow) ... pics of our costumes, and the dogs in costumes as well!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Glad Late-Season Surprise ....

... Guest photos by Fernymoss ...

Tonight, we're going to revisit an oddity I posted about earlier in the summer ... the mysterious gladiolus that we initially thought was a long ago planted Crocosmia (Lucifer), but after having put up leaves for the past several years and never blooming, decided to treat us finally this year. Well, this past week, it decided to give us a repeat show very late in the season ... as we face an almost likely frost later this week.

Perhaps it's a gift from the goddess in the autumn garden ... but no matter the source, we're glad to see this lovely combination of pink, yellow and white make a rare re-blooming appearance. Though we've never known gladiolus to re-bloom, this has been an odd year for such occurrences around the garden here ... what with the hibiscus that ceased flowering in late August, only to have reappeared in full bloom (if a bit smaller) in the past few weeks though the Delphiniums seem to have taken to their autumn rest for now... Other plants are giving us their best farewells to sunny weather ... the zinnias, the Spanish Flag, morning glories and other annuals, as we face the prospect of a likely freeze later this week. We'll hate to see them go, but in the cycle of the garden itself, it's an inevitable moment we face each fall .... so a late-season surprise such as this seems even more worth savoring while it lasts ....

In the first shot you can also see a small visitor near the top of the shot ... it's a lacewing, a more than welcome predator who has decided to call our garden home. These are the kinds of guys you want in your garden, as they feast in the most discriminating way upon those little nasties such as aphids who want to consume and destroy your flowers. And unlike the especially proliferous Preying Mantises this year, lacewings won't just eat anything in sight ... they will selectively choose the bad guys who may be trying to devour other flowers. So if you see them in your garden, give them a smile and thanks for making your flower beds their home ... they will prove to you that they're worth having around.

The last two shots are especially luscious tight shots of the flowers, where you can get a much better look at how they look slightly unopened, as well as revealing their inner bits in more detail. The mass of chartreuse green you see in the background of the third one is Ipomoea battata or Green Sweet Potato vine... which alas, is now putting on lots of buds that may never have the chance to reveal themselves this year .... if we do dodge the freeze and they do bloom, you can certainly expect to see them here soon.

Enjoy these while they last ... that's what we plan to do!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Late Night Lobata

No, it's not another brain operation or a fad dance, just more of my new favorite vine, Mina Lobata. Regular visitors will recognize this showy member of the Convolvulaceae family from earlier posts, but it was especially spectacular yesterday, so I had to try for more shots of it ....

I especially like the view of the old maple in the background, as it reminds me of the grumpy apple trees in The Wizard of Oz. There's just not enough I can say about this plant .... I love it!

I think I saw some beginnings of seed pods yesterday on the earlier blooms, so I'm hoping that the weather holds out long enough to let them mature so we can collect them for next year.

I'm still working on the perfect shot of these blooms while I can, but even if I don't get it just yet, I think these examples show it off to great effect. If you're interested in planting this unusual member of the Convolvulaceae family, see my previous posts for more tips.

Oh, and NDD, I'm working on collecting those seeds for you and Ms. NDD. If we get some from this, I'll include them as well ....

And to any other readers out there who are interested in things they've seen here over the past summer, just let me know in the comments and I may be able to accommodate requests. Remember, gardening is all about sharing as I like to say, and our mentor Frank says .....That's good enough for me!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Not Fletcher's Castoria ... Oh, a Castor Bean Tree!

Well, it's been a while again hasn't it? At least I have the excuse of having had to travel for work last week to the East Bay area of California! That's a whole other post to come, but in the interests of showing off some things I got in the garden today, I thought I'd put up a few shots I got of the castor trees we have planted out in the front bed.

For those of you who are old enough to remember, Fletcher's Castoria was a popular children's laxative back when I was a kid ... and as any kid who knows what taking Castor Bean Oil was like, apparently it was much tastier. Cherry flavored, if I recall correctly ... though I don't think I ever got the branded version ... if it came to that, I got the nasty tasting stuff that came in the medicinal looking bottle.

Odd preface, you might say? Well, the thing that has always fascinated me about Castors, and especially since I've been growing them, is that the entire plant is poisonous. Deadly, in fact. Leaves, seeds, flowers, it's all going to make you either violently ill (its purgative qualities are historic) or kill you.

Despite those rather ominous remarks, Ricinus Communis, v. Carmencita is a marvelous ornamental well worth growing in your specimen bed. Though I got these in rather late this year, they have reached at least 7 feet at this point, and if they are able to make it further before a hard freeze, we may even see mature seeds develop. And we're hoping they do, as our supply from previous years is getting somewhat depleted ....

Yes, this is the infamous Castor tree reputed to repel moles (if you have them) and can be the basis of a deadly toxin called Ricin. But in any case, as an architectural element planted in the garden, there's little less dramatic than the huge coppery leaves and their late summer blooms, which you can see in some detail in these two shots.

They're best planted in a full sun position where they can get ample moisture to grow ... they are fast growers, who if planted early enough, can easily top 8 feet or more in a season. Their green cousins get even bigger ... often topping 12-13 feet, but we didn't get any of those in this year, as this is our favorite of the species with its rich reddish foliage and odd blooms.

I'll be commenting more on these fantastical plants soon, but wanted to just give you a taste of things to come in the next few weeks, so here you have it ... the plant that produces a laxative (though I'm still not sure how they process it to eliminate the toxic properties) much dreaded by children of my generation ... I wonder how many of today's kids have even heard of Castor Bean Oil and actually know what it's used for ....

A few more for Olivia's 'to plant' list ...

AND, finally, a couple of Nasturtium pics for Olivia ... not so subtle persuasion as to why she needs to plant these beauties in her garden next year ...

Eminently edible, deliciously fragarant and all around easy, the only thing Nasturtiums ask is that you don't plant them in too rich a soil, otherwise you'll get fantastic foliage, and few flowers.

And not so subtle hint again ... throw them in your salads for a nice zippy peppery flavour ... if the flowers aren't enough for you, go for the foliage as well! Unlike the Castors, Nasturtiums are wholly edible and tasty too!

And, for the Monarch lovers in all of us ....

I managed to get a few nice shots of a Monarch butterfly dining on the yellow Butterfly Bush (Buddleia weyeriana) this afternoon ... funny thing is, I was working more on getting shots of the late season blooms of the white Hibiscus when I looked over and saw this one perching on the Butterfly Bush! So here are a couple of the better shots I was able to get before s/he winged off into the breeze ....

Alas, it seems as if fall is really here, and serious about its last hurrah, since these guys have been a bit more scarce of late due to cooler weather and less sun ... but with the nice warm up this weekend in the low 80's, they are making sure they still show they're around and appreciative of what we have to offer them .... We'll miss them when they're gone, but sure are enjoying them while they're still here!

I hope you do too .....

Eye of Toad Lily

This is really just a teaser of things to come soon ... Our toad lilies have just begun blooming around here ... a bit later than usual, but we're not worried, as they will be around till a hard frost.

I'll have more on growing them soon, but for the time being, I'll let you feast your eyes on this orchid like veteran of the late-summer, early-fall bloom season.

A true shade lover who require little more than to be planted in a fairly most position, Tricyrtis hirta, v. Amethestina, is a reliable and tough plant for dazzling late season interest.

Stay tuned for more soon ... I promise we'll get better pics to show it off in its best light!