Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Late Night Bouquet


Last night I got the urge to do something I almost never do. I cut flowers from the garden and brought them into the house. I was checking the side bed of the house in the early evening to see what maintenance it needed and I spied ‘Lovely Girl’ and ‘Acapulco’ blooming and I decided to put them in a vase. I don’t know why I’m so reluctant to take blooms from the garden. Last night the lilies filled my bedroom with such a sweet scent! Hope everyone has a wonderful day.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Flowers From A Blogger Friend...

Good morning/good afternoon everyone. I hope you had a really great weekend. I’m thoroughly enjoying the new landscape lights I’ve put in the garden and I can’t wait to install more of them. I guess it’s time to get started doing a few of those wonderful improvements I’ve been putting off. I’ve got so many things I’ve been delaying because of expense, but lately I’ve been thinking why should I deny myself the enjoyment.


Chores are just about caught up in the garden as of this weekend. There are just two more small sections that need to be weeded and all that will be done. The list of things that need to be done is getting shorter and shorter and I’m so thankful to Colvin and Donnie for helping me catch things up. That pneumonia really slowed me down the past six weeks. I’ve been debating on whether or not I should water the grass. There seems to be no rain in sight and it’s starting to turn brown. Hmmmm…. Oh! And does anyone know where I can order resonably priced Clematis online?


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lighting- Stage One

For some time now I’ve been tossing around the idea of installing landscape lighting in the garden. It’s so dark back there at night. I’ve been torn between the decision to purchase low voltage or solar powered lights. Some of you may remember a product review I did on some Westinghouse solar powered lights. Initially those lights were impressive but they lasted one season and died. I expected much better results considering the cost of those lights. I had made up my mind the only solution was to spend almost $700.00 dollars on low voltage transformers and electric lights. That’s a lot of money, but at least I would be assured they would last for many, many years to come and I could do it in stages. One night recently I was over at a friend’s house and he had purchased some single LED spot lights from Lowe’s and I have to say I was really impressed with light output. Right now they are on sale for about 36% off so they were a very reasonable price.


I said to myself okay, this is great. I’ve found a sensibly priced solar power light with a respectable output of luminosity. But, the fact still remains that the lifespan of previously purchased lights was so short lived I just couldn’t justify the expense. I set out to do a little research to find out just exactly how long these lights can last and I was actually surprised by the information I got.


During my research I sent a short note to a company called Natures Solar Lights asking why solar lights were so short lived. I got a wonderful response from a very nice lady named Marcia and I’d like to share her email with you. It was chock full of information about solar lights. BTW I was so appreciative of the time she took with her email I wanted to include a link to her website. She did not solicit me to do this, it is a simply thank you from me for being so thoughtful with her message.


Hi Randy,
Can you tell me what is not lasting on your solar lights? Is it the fixtures, the solar panels, the LEDs, the batteries, or are you unsure right now?

Generally, the fixtures and stakes, whether they are made of stainless steel or the durable plastic, should last for 15 to 20 years at least. The LED bulbs last up to 100,000 hours, which again is around 15 years. The solar panels, unless they become damaged by something falling on them, or are covered with a lot of dirt that would stop the sun from charging the lights, should last as long as the LED bulbs. Generally, the only thing that should go wrong is when the rechargeable batteries just won't charge anymore and need to be replaced, and they absolutely will need to be replaced within one to three years, depending on the battery itself.

When you replace the batteries in your solar lights, the new batteries must be rechargeable, and the same type of battery that the solar lights came with, either a 1.2V Ni-MH or Ni-CD type of battery, or a 3.2V Lithium Ion battery that is being used in a lot of the newer solar lights now. Rechargeable batteries are rated by "mah", the higher the mah, the stronger the battery, which will give you a stronger charge, and a longer lighting duration. A 400 to 600mah is not nearly as strong as a 2400mah, for example.

When they say, "you get what you pay for", that is partially true even in solar lights. More expensive solar lights may have better batteries for higher capacity storage, a stronger solar panel for better charging, the circuitry may be put together a little better, and the fixtures may be prettier. However, even the most expensive solar lights will need the rechargeable batteries replaced. And the cheapest solar lights should still last you years, which is a good return on the solar investment.

Since your lights lasted as long as they did, if you did not replace the batteries, that is probably what went wrong. If you want to give me more details, I would be happy to review them and get back to you again.

Be sure to base any of your future purchases on what type of lighting you want. For very low level light, buy solar lights with only 1-2 LED bulbs in each fixture. For a light to glow and cast dim light on your garden plants buy solar lights with 3-5 LED bulbs in each fixture. If you are lighting an entrance area, or gazebo area, get at least 6-8 LED bulbs in each fixture. If you want to highlight a tree or larger area, I would suggest at least a minimum of 16 LED spotlight. You can make your garden really pop at night with different levels of lighting throughout.

Everybody needs to base their solar lights on their budget, and can't afford to buy the most expensive, but in practical terms, buying and replacing batteries is a whole lot cheaper than the electricity costs. I also like the look of the lighting at night, very soft and not glaring. I would be more than happy to review some of the products with you if you do decide to purchase more.
Let me know if I can help further.

Thank you for contacting us,
Marcia Price
Natures Solar Lights


The first thing I did when I got home after receiving this email was to go check the batteries on the four very expensive lights I purchased two years ago. Unfortunately I didn’t see a battery compartment. I’m still going to take them apart and see what I find. After all they aren’t working so what harm could it do? Note to self: Make sure all future lights have removable batteries.


I feel a lot better about solar lights after reading my email from Marcia. While there are some areas that will still have to be lit with low voltage because they don’t receive enough sun, I’m pleased with my purchase of the solar lights. Down the road as the trees continue to grow, they may all have to be replaced, but that's years away. For now I think the garden looks just beautiful at night.


This is just the first stage of the lighting I’m putting in the garden. I figured the up lights would give me the most immediate impact. Next will be either the path or down lights. I’ll probably start on one of those two within the next month or whenever I can find what I’m looking for… Hope you find some of this information useful.


Monday, June 18, 2012

'Spanish Eyes'

Black-Eyed Susan Vine
Thunbergia alata 'Spanish Eyes'


Anyone that knows me can tell you I’m absolutely terrible when it comes to growing things from seed. This is actually my third attempt to grow Black-Eyed Susan Vines from seed and I finally succeeded. This particular one is called ‘Spanish Eyes’ and the seeds were a birthday gift from my very dear friend Carol. My first tries at growing them was using seed from the traditional yellow flowered vine.


I love, love, love this vine and I hope it produces enough seed for me to replant them next year. It comes in a variety of colors and I can’t wait to get more of them. It is an annual in my area so I will have to clean up the dead vines every year and I’m not particularly thrilled about that fact. I’m hoping this won’t be a major chore so I won’t be discouraged from planting more of this charming little plant.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Amethyst Falls

Chinese Evergreen Wisteria
Millettia taiwanensis ‘Amethyst Falls’


I really love this vine. I’ve always enjoyed the beautiful blooms on wisteria, but I was reluctant to plant it in my garden. The old fashioned American variety is such a vigorous grower and once it gets started it’s nearly impossible to get rid of if you change your mind. That’s not the case with this Chinese Evergreen Wisteria. It’s a very well behaved vine and at full maturity only reaches between 12 to 15 feet in length.


The blooms are beautiful deep purple with a bright yellow stripe in the center. My only complaint about them is they don’t seem to last nearly as long as the more common varieties of wisteria. The foliage a shiny, leathery texture and is considered evergreen, but in my zone it does lose its leaves in the winter time.


All the information I’ve ever read on this vine says it blooms in late summer or early fall. Mine has always bloomed around the first of June. This year it’s putting on a particularly nice display… certainly the best since it’s been planted.


I understand it’s very easy to grow from seed, but mine vine has yet to produce any of them. As slow growing as it is I could only imagine how long it would take to grow from seed. I’m not a very patient gardener and I’m not sure I could wait that long. I would like to see what the seed pods look like though.


All in all I thought this was the perfect choice of vines for this little screen I designed behind the bench. This is the fourth year I’ve had this vine in my garden and I’m really happy with the way it’s turned out. By next summer this screen should be completely covered and I would also think the vine will be about as large as it’s going to get. Now, if I could only locate that illusive Yellow Butterfly vine I’ve been trying to find.