MLK Quote

MLK Quote

Nature's Inspiration Movie

http://www.flickspire.com/m/HealthierL433/NaturesInspiration -- Nature's Inspiration Movie: The photographs in this short video are from award-winning photographer, Ken Jenkins, and they are breathtaking. However, this video is much more than beautiful photographs! Peggy Anderson has compiled beautiful quotations from the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, and many others that truly capture the beauty of nature and solitude. Absolute must watch for nature lovers.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ferns And More Ferns

I have been away from the blog-world for a long time. So, I should first apologize to my regular readers. Life is a bit crazy this year as my university is having lots of changes. Being a full-time professor with all sorts of scholarship, research and teaching duties, I hardly find time. But, time is becoming a more valuable commodity to me now as I have to become part of various committees overlooking all these changes. But today I promised myself to take a break from all these work and attend the monthly meeting of our local garden-club. Anybody living in New Jersey should check out Rockaway Valley Garden Club. It's a fantastic club with great programs and truly wonderful people who are so knowledgeable about plants, gardens and gardening.

In today's meeting, the talk was on Ferns And Their Shady Friends by Marc Zukovich. He is the professor of Horticulture in Morris County College, and also the owner of Sterling Horticultural Services. I love ferns as they are considered one of the oldest living organisms, that is they have been on the earth for more than 300 million years. They are considered some of the very first complex living organisms to have evolved on earth. They are true living fossils. Only if they could talk, how much we were going to learn about the evolution of our dear planet. It is estimated that there are about 11,000 fern species, found in every nook and cranny in the world including Arctic. I am not sure if they are found in Antarctica, anyone knows?

I have quite a few ferns in my garden. They grow along with other shade-loving plants like Heuchera, Foam-flower, Mist-flower, Brunnera, Larkspur, Hostas, Hellebor and some more. Shade-gardening is one of my passions. Here are some pictures of my ferns. My ferns are all babies, only one to two years old. So, they have not matured yet.



The pictures are those of, left to right, Japanese Painted Fern, Cinnamon Fern, Unknown Fern, Christmas Fern. It is said that Cinnamon Fern grows only along stream-banks or in bogs. I don't have either of them. I am growing them in raised bed in a soil that is full of organic matter. They are growing fine. Ferns should always be grown in damp soil. The soil should not be moist or wet but damp to the touch. And, you can achieve that by using soil that is full of organic matter like compost and leaf-mold.



The pictures from left to right are: Lady in Red. As this fern matures, it stems should become bright red, and that's why it has such a name. Dixie Wood Fern, Autumn Fern and the last one is either a baby Ostrich-Glade Fern or Maidenhair Fern. Autumn Fern, as the name suggests, has autumn-colored Orangish fronds. I also have a very sad looking indoor Boston Fern. Boston Fern is a non-hardy fern. Ferns can be either hardy or non-hardy. Among the 11,000 Fern-species, only about hundred or so are found in cooler climates of Asia, Europe and America. The rest are all found in tropical or sub-tropical climates.

Here are some interesting facts that I learned in today's meeting:
  • Many ferns can be grown in full-sun if the soil is kept moist.
  • Ferns do not like fertilizers; they prefer rich, humus soil and organic matter.
  • If a fern start dying, then it rarely bounce back.
  • As cooler weather sets in, the fronds of your ferns dry up and become dry and dead. However, do not take them out before winter. Leave them as it is as they provide protection to the roots below. Clean them up only in Spring.
  • There is an American Fern Society


  • Here are some ferns for color: Adiantum Hispidulum, Athyrium Brandford Beauty, Athyrium Ghost, Athyrium Niponicum Pictum, Athyrium Otophorum, Blechnum Chilense, Blechnum Novae-Zelandiae, Blechnum Penna-Marina, Dryopteris Erythrosora, Dryopteris Lepidopoda, Dryopteris Wallichiana, Osmundo Regalis Purpurascens, Woodwardia Orientalis, Woodwardia Unigemmata, Woodwardia Virginica. I got the list from a hand-out given by Professor Zukovich.

    Ferns with a clumping habit: Adiantum Aleuticum, Adiantum Pedatum, Athyrium Otophorum, Dryopteris Affinis, Dryopteris Australis, Dryopteris Complexa, Dryopteris Erythrosora, Dryopteris Filix-Mas, Dryopteris Intermedia, Polystichum Munitum, Polystichum Polyblepharum, Polystichum Setiferum. The list is obtained from the hand-out.

    Spreading Groundcover Ferns: Adiantum Venustum, Blechnum Chilense, Blechnum Penna-Marina, Dennstaedtia Punctilobula, Gymnocarpium Disjunctum, Gymnocarpium Dryopteris, Matteuccia Struthiopteris, Onoclea Sensibilis, Phegopteris Decursive-Pinnata, Thelypteris Kunthii, Woodwardia Areolata. The list is obtained from the hand-out.

    So, it seems I have a long list of ferns to buy. Those who do only edible-garden, you can also grow fern -- Ostrich Fern -- as the fiddleheads of Ostrich Fern are edible. Between January to May (sometimes even a little later), you can find them being sold in places like Whole Foods. So, do you grow fern? What sorts of fern do you grow?

    Before I end, here is a fascinating article about a fern, that's so small that many of them can fit on your fingernail, responsible for saving our planet and about an extraordinary woman Azolla. I'm joining in the memes hosted by Eileen,  Rambling WoodsSt Germain's meme.

    Monday, December 19, 2016

    Some of the winter birds -- putting up a show for me.

    Winter came forcefully on Saturday. Rain, sleet, ice, squall, blizzard, everything was happening together. One moment it was squall; with heavy wind it turned into blizzard. Then, ice-balls were raining down. Squirrels did not come out of their nests but birds were. I have always noticed this -- in heavy rain or in bad weather, squirrels or other mammals do not come out until the weather subsides a little. But birds come out. Why? Their wings are much more delicate which can easily get battered in dire weather; but rain or snow, sun or cloud, birds are out flapping their wings and chirping.

    Saturday was no exception. As it was snowing heavily outside, I was standing by the window and taking pictures of some of the winter birds that visit the bird-feeders. I have about four or five bird-feeders and a suet-feeder. I always try to keep them filled up as I do not know how all the birds survive here in this winter with so few native plants around. Wild birds eat seeds and berries during winter as most of the insect population has either died down or gone into hibernation deep into some holes which most birds cannot penetrate. But with more and more native trees being cut down in the suburban USA and replaced with non-native ornamental trees or plants which do not provide any berries or seeds, birds find it hard to find food. As the winter goes by, food become more scarce as the remaining food gets covered with snow. That is why February is the bird-feeding month in the US as it is the peak month in winter when everything is hidden under snow, temperature is freezing, water is frozen and that's when most birds die due to lack of food.

    I provide black-sunflower seed and suet for my birds. I should also get some thistle which juncos and finches prefer. Suets are mostly favored by any kind of wood-peckers. I get all sorts of birds -- sparrows, finches, juncos, doves, cardinals, chickadees, titmice, jays, nuthatch, wood-peckers (red-bellied and downy) and starling. Squirrels also come to the feeders. I do not chase them away as they also need food during these winter months. Birds and squirrels share the feeders together and all survive. With so many birds and squirrels, I should be getting raptors in my yard. Luckily I am yet to see them in my yard though I see them flying high in the sky. I know they also need food but please no murder and blood-shed in my yard. Here are pictures of some of the birds that I could capture on Saturday. They dart in and out too fast; or move around too fast to capture properly. Also, the window and the screen were not helping as most of the pictures have come out hazy.

    This is a blue-jay. Do you know jays belong to the crow-family!? Crows and Jays belong to the "Corvidae" family. Who would say they are related!? Like their cousin crows, jays are also highly intelligent birds. You can also train them to get food from your hand if you have the patience and time to stand still, everyday at the same time, with food. This year I had the rare luck of having a jay-family raise their brood in front of my eyes. I will write about it later in another post.

    We can learn a beautiful lesson from jays -- as soon as a jay finds a source of food, it start giving out loud calls so that other jays might find that source of food. Just imagine us humans announcing the source of food, resources, wealth to all and sharing them with all.



    This is a sparrow hanging upside-down from a suet-feeder. From sparrows, we should learn how to work together in a flock. Sparrows are not native birds of the US. But wherever they have been introduced, they have become hugely successful for their flocking habit which helps them with protection and food-sharing.



    This is a Tufted Titmouse, one of my favorite birds. They have such huge circular eyes and such cute mohawks on their tiny heads that one has to fall in love with them. They are considered song-bird species of the eastern deciduous forest of the US. They dart back and forth between the feeder and a tree-branch. They will take a seed, fly to the branch, whack the seed open with their beak, eat and then again fly back to the feeder.



    This is a nut-hatch with habits very similar to wood-peckers. During spring and summer, one can find them poking onto the tree-trunks to eat insects. And, it is one of the few bird-species in the world, that can climb down a tree (or climb down anything). In this picture also, you see it hanging upside-down on the bird-feeder.



    This is a chickadee, another exceptionally cute bird with a tiny body and a round-head. This is a bird which has no fear of humans, I think. They will come and sit right next to you as you fill in the feeder or work in the garden. A very restless bird which cannot sit still for a second. Where does its little body get so much energy? It also behaves like tufted titmouse, flying between feeder and trees with one seed at a time. AND IF YOU START PROVIDING A BIRD-FEEDER, THEN PLEASE CONTINUE DOING SO BECAUSE CHICKADEES BUILD NESTS AND REAR THEIR BABIES WITHIN A ONE-HUNDRED-FIFTY FEET RADIUS OF A FOOD-SOURCE. That is, these birds build their nests very close to a food source. If that food-source happens to be your bird-feeder and if you suddenly stop feeding them (especially in winter), then they might even face death.



    A female downy-woodpecker waiting for its turn at the suet. I see much order, respect and cooperation among the birds in the feeder. They seldom fight. Each wait for its turn. They are not greedy, do not hoard and occupy the feeder -- they come, eat to their fill and then leave.



    This is an European Sterling. They move around in great flock and can finish everything in a bird within matter of seconds. Also, when they are at the feeders, smaller birds like titmice, chickadee, nuthatch, finch or sparrow cannot approach the feeder. Again, I do not have to chase them away so that the smaller birds can feed. As they descend in a large-group and starts eating, squirrels notice the food-source. So, they come. As soon as squirrels come, these birds fly away. And when squirrels on the feeders, all the smaller birds come and eat from the other side of the feeder.



    I spread some seeds on the ground as well for ground-eating birds like dove or juncos.



    This is a mourning-dove, another of my favorite bird. It is one of the most hunted species in the USA. Why would anyone want to hunt such a beautiful-looking bird which does not create any kind of destruction or anything? All it wants to do is sing out lamenting songs in spring. I know you will say that it's killed for food. It seems like all we humans can do are elect stupid leaders, eat anything and everything and destroy world for our needs and greed.



    I think this is a house-sparrow (sometimes also called garden-sparrows). There are couple of different types of sparrows one can find in the eastern USA. House-sparrow is the most common among them.



    The next two pictures are that of Cardinals. The first one is a female Cardinal. The bright red one is the male cardinal and is the state bird of New Jersey. Though they are of medium size but these are dominating and quarrelsome birds. No two cardinals will sit in the same-feeder; they also do not allow any other birds in their vicinity. But they are superbly gorgeous birds, and especially the bright-red male-cardinals are sight to behold in bright white snow.





    And this is the rarest phenomena that I am seeing in my yard for the first time -- an American Robin still hanging out. American Robins do not stay in New Jersey and migrate south during winter. Rarely, one or two birds stay behind. I think it is one of those rare birds. I hope it soon migrates and as otherwise it will die without any insects or berries for food.




    I'm joining in the memes hosted by Eileen,  Rambling WoodsSt Germain's meme.

    Tuesday, December 6, 2016

    How To Get Out of Winter Blues -- Tips For My Fellow Gardeners

    I usually get winter blues, every year, as the gardening period comes to an end. This year is no exception. What is it in gardening that makes us happy? Is it because we are surrounded by green and genetically we are more accustomed to green (than any other color because of our forest/grassland dwelling ancestry)? Or is it because we are surrounded by sound, color, movement and beauty -- the buzzing of bees, chirping of birds; the fleeting color of butterflies; the swaying of grasses in the breeze; the vibrant displays of flowers? Or is it because we have so much work in the garden -- inspecting, mulching, pruning, deadheading, climbing, crawling, kneeling, standing -- that we do not get the time to be depressed?



    If you think deeply, you realize that gardening should be a very depressing chore for all the various reasons:
  • It is hard-work; dragging all the heavy pots, mulches, compost across the garden is not a fun job.
  • Trees and perennials take time to reach maturity. Gardening needs patience. It does not give us instant gratification. As you put the plant in the ground and imagine how it will look in ten years time, other thoughts peeks from around the corner; "how will my life be after ten years?" "will I still be alive?" "will the people that I love be still around?" These are not joyful thoughts.
  • You become a mass-murderer of weeds; you are a serial-killer of seedlings of unwanted plants; you squeeze the life out of garden-destroying bugs without blinking you eyes. You are indeed a psychopath. You can never be happy.
  • You do not kill weeds and unwanted bugs; you refuse to take life. Well! your garden will never be like the ones shown on TV or in magazines. You can only long and day-dream for such gardens. How extraordinarily sad!!
  • You fall in love with a plant and then look at the price-tag......
  • Some of your favorite flowers bloom only for few hours; or a day. Their ephemeral beauty, their short stay remind you that our stay on this earth is also for a fleeting moment. You do not know where you have come from; you do not know where you will go at the end of your life; nothing is permanent in your life. We are just but temporary residents, doing some temporary activities. What's the use of anything, of gardening?




  • Despite all such melancholy thoughts, gardening always lifts me up. I become like the butterfly, fluttering across the garden, to drink-in all that it has to offer.



    I wait in anticipation for the plants to germinate, the seeds to arrive, and wild-lives playing hide-and-seek in my weed-ridden garden.





    To enjoy more of gardening I started doing, for the last two years, indoor-gardening. All of us can do this if we have either a basement or attic or some place somewhere in the house. It can even be a garage as long as the temperature is not freezing cold.

    I have it in our basement. Our basement is furnished (for my non-American friends, a furnished basement means it is like a proper room; it is not a damp, dark place where things are just dumped) and thus heated. If you want the plants to remain green and even bear fruits and flowers, then the temperature of the place should be like above 55 F (13 C). Thus, it is like a green-house but inside the house.


    We built the whole system with less than hundred dollar. We searched around Home-Depot, Restores and Lowes (they are home-improvement supply superstores here in the US), and found this industrial-strength steel racks for about $30 (I don't know why they were so cheap; or perhaps we were lucky). You need such racks to bear the weight of all the pots and soil. You can also use plastic racks but again they have to be of industrial strength to carry all the loads. We set up the racks; bought some grow lights (from walmart, $4 each) and light-fixtures (for about couple of dollars from Restores); fitted the fixtures with bulbs. Hung those up through the racks, and voila! we have established our indoor green-house.

    I know! I know! I hear you all...how can I commit such crime against environment by keeping those lights on for about 8 hours every day? I can do so because they consume very less electricity. If I leave all the grow-lights on for twenty-four hours, then at the end of the month it will consume electricity worth less than ten dollar. So, it should tell you how little it consumes and I do not leave them on for more than eight hours.

    I water them only once a week along with some water-soluble sea-weed. I do not give them a thorough soak but enough to keep the soil moist. They are inside and thus do not have any of the outdoor elements like wind, sun, to dry them up. Too much water can kill them. I can harvest from them if I want to but I mostly for my enjoyment. Come Spring I put them in the ground so that they start fruiting again. I have bulbs, tubers, peppers, various herbs, tea-plant, curry-leaf plant, ginger and turmeric plants, tomatoes and other greens there. I also have other plants -- lemon, lime, bay-leaf, herbs, aloe, papaya, guava, longevity-spinach and other house-plants -- in front of every window in the house. Our house is a mini-forest during winter. Do you have any plants inside your house during winter?





    I'm joining in the memes hosted by Eileen,  Rambling WoodsSt Germain's meme.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2016

    The First Day of Snow in 2016

    We had our first snow on this past Saturday night (November 19). The rain turned into snow though the temperature was about thirty-seven degree Fahrenheit. It was a very strange weather phenomena.



    I rushed out to bring the potted tender perennials plants indoor.



    But it was not necessary. All the plants, even the heat-loving eggplants and pepper-plants, survived the snow. Apparently, plants can handle some snow and frost as long as the grounds do not freeze up and their stems/trunks do not freeze up and rot.



    Winter is definitely in the year. Another year is ending. For most people, the year ends and begin with the new year eve. For me, the year ends and begin with growing season. Though the sky is bright with soft-cotton clouds;



    Most of the trees have shed their leaves


    However, the majestic oak, here, is still holding on to the leaves


    grass is still green and much green can be seen among the plants but the growing period has essentially come to an end (unless of course one has a heated or some other kind of green-house). So, for me another year has ended. The new year will start sometime in April.



    It's usually the time to look back into the past-year to take stock of what has succeeded in the garden; what failed. I usually do not dwell on such lessons. A plant or a garden can fail for too many variables -- climate, micro-climate, soil, too much rain, too little rain, too high temperature, too low temperature. I usually look to the coming year. I have already ordered newer flowering plants and varieties of vegetable and flower seeds. I need to order live-plants. I plan to trim some trees, cut down dead trees, expand the pool and create more raised-beds, and grow more flower. I hope to connect the front and back-garden through a corridor of flowers for my pollinator friends. That is why it is good idea to have plants in garden that can keep on flowering till the onset of "true" winter when ground freezes up, temperature is always below freezing and the atmosphere is laden with snow. Until the true winter sets in, native bees are out hunting as soon the sun is up and shining.



    Saffron growing here. Saffron bloom in November and then again in April. I have to put up that protection-cover so that the bulbs are not eaten up squirrels and chipmunks. 




    All the roses have gone into sleep for the year; but this plant decided to throw a last-minute show. Only this lonely rose bloomed in the last few days when it snowed and temperature has really dropped. 


    Beside planning, I am enjoying the various color of fall in my garden,

     


    and the architectural-structure left behind by the dead plants and seeds





    I'm joining in the memes hosted by Rambling Woods, Photographing NZ and St Germain's meme.