Moss Terrarium? Vivarium? Mossarium? Something-ium.

Have you been out in the woods lately? If so, have you noticed all the amazing mosses and lichens? In Fall and Winter, these guys really shine, since most other foliage is done-zo for the year. 

Jonah and I had a weekend away to Waynesville, NC for a belated anniversary celebration, and while there, we hiked the Great Smoky Mountains National Park trail at Clingman’s Dome. The weather was crappy – it rained and was freezing cold, but thanks to the fact that we had some waterproof gear with us, we decided to take part of the Appalachian Trail back down from the Dome, rather than the paved path to the parking lot. 

And you know what? It was such a rewarding hike! We’ve hiked a lot over the years, never anything super long or fancy, but I’ve never hiked through a river of water like this. We had about 2 inches of water along the path on the way down… it was like hiking through a river. The conifers around us smelled like the most fragrant Christmas tree lot you can imagine with furry, soft mosses all around. There were also down draughts of rain and fog that we could actually see. Plus, we were the ONLY ones on the trail. It was so serene and quiet! Calgon, take me away!

Here are a few photos from the trail:

When we got back home, I got inspired to make a moss terrarium. And as usual, YouTube had tutorials out the wazoo. But it turns out it’s so easy, a caveman (or cave Jubliant Gardener!) could do it. And YOU CAN, TOO! Here’s how.

Step 1: Get a clear vessel. Like an applesauce jar or old candy dish. Whatever you have lying around is fine as long as it has a closeable top.

Step 2: Fill the vessel with a base layer of something that 1) won’t rot and 2) will allow water to drain into it. I chose perlite because that’s what I had on hand, but you could also use rocks, coarse sand, broken pottery, marbles, etc. You’re creating a reservoir since the glass vessel doesn’t have drainage holes – it prevents the moss from sitting in water and rotting.

Step 3: Add some potting medium. I had some compost on hand, so that’s what I used. Potting mix is fine, too.

Step 4: Add mosses! Procure them from a forested area, your back yard, or wherever mosses are carried ;). Don’t be greedy, and don’t decimate a patch… take just a little bit. You can clean these in distilled water or rain water to get rid of bugs and debris. It rained the other day and I rinsed mine in the bird bath (and then dumped the bird bath because it was gross). Optional: you can add hardscape, like larger rocks or wood that has been cured or boiled to remove pathogens and mold).

Step 5: Water/mist your terrarium and put on the lid.

Voila! You are now the proud owner of a Mossarium!

Keep it out of direct sunlight, unless you like cooked moss, and enjoy! Monitor for a few weeks as it all settles in. You should not have to water this system since it’s sealed (condensation and evaoporation will all occur inside the jar). If you notice mold growth, consider adding springtails (a small insect that occurs in the wild and loves to eat fungi and mold), or removing moldy bits with tongs. You can also add other plants that like a humid environment – many houseplants and tropical plants will fit the bill.

I’m excited to have these as new, living centerpieces on our dining room table to remind me of our trip. If these succeed, I might be making more to spread around the house (sorry Jonah!). Have you made a terrarium before? If so, what are your lessons learned? I’d love to hear from you – share your insights in the comments below!

 

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Grady the Groundhog

Planting season is winding down now, and I’m starting to reflect on this year’s growing season. We’ve enjoyed the wildlife in our garden this year and it seems like things are getting even more biodiverse! 

Case in point, we had our very own groundhog! Meet Grady!

Here he/she is being super cute AND super destructive, eating my zucchini.

The first time we met, I was out in the garden and then I saw what looked to be a GIANT bunny. Turns out, it was a rodent of unusual size.

We stared at each other for a minute or so, and then I decided I needed to share my discovery with Jonah and the girls. Of course, as soon as I went inside, Grady disappeared. Talk about an elusive creature! For a few days, I staked out in our dining room behind a sheer curtain panel just like Clint Eastwood, to see if I could see Grady again.

Finally, after multiple sightings but disappearing before I could get my phone, I finally got Jonah downstairs in time to take a picture with his camera. Now we have proof that Grady does exist! For several weeks, maybe a month, we saw him nearly everyday. Since about early October, we haven’t seen him/her, but I hope (s)he’ll be back. And based on what I see online, that makes sense, since groundhogs hibernate from October through March/April.

Groundhogs are fascinating and adorable little creatures! They’re in the marmot family and are also known as woodchucks or whistle pigs, because of the sound they make when they’re threatened or alarmed. They can burrow to beat the band, and when they hibernate, they hibernate HARD – body temperature lowers to 35 degrees F and heart rate slows to 4-10 bpm. They breathe only once every six minutes! How these guys stay alive it truly amazing. 

Some people see groundhogs as pests. A few of our neighbors joked that this groundhog had messed with the wrong gardener. And while I admit that G ate A LOT of my sunflowers, sweet potato vines, and ground-level zucchini and beans, I actually loved seeing that little guy around here. It’s just another sign that the garden is full of life and it doesn’t belong to just me. It’s God’s gift to creatures great and small from humans down to itty bitty insects. We can all share and enjoy the harvest. 

So here’s to you, Grady! See you in the Spring!

 

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July Garden Update

I’ve got a fever… and the only prescription is more flowers!

We’ve got COVID – womp womp :(. Since we’ve been home isolating and I haven’t been up for manual labor, I’ve been doing a lot of daydreaming about gardening. It feels like winter to me… stuck inside, going stir crazy. To combat the boredom, I read a book on cut flower gardening (by Erin Benzakein of Floret Farm), watched YouTube videos (this, this, this, and this) on how to arrange flowers, and started filling up virtual shopping carts with bulbs and flower seeds to plant this fall. By the way, if you haven’t done so already, now’s the time to start thinking about and ordering spring-blooming bulbs to plant this fall. 

Here’s the scoop on what’s been going on in the garden lately.

Bugs & Critters

It’s July, and the garden is at its peak (check out the photos tab at the top of the page for the latest garden photos). Flowers are blooming, veggies and fruits are producing, and bugs and critters are having a heyday. The days are now getting shorter since we’ve passed the summer solstice, and with that, the rate of growth of most plants slows down. I’m starting to notice little holes here and there in the garden, either from plants that didn’t germinate, got hit by the heat/dry days we had in June, or have been ravaged by pests. Lessons I’m re-learning: I need butterfly netting for brassicas from now on, squash vine borers are the devil/I do not have the patience and vigilance to grow summer squash, and bunnies and squirrels from far and wide see our garden as an all-you-can-eat buffet. Here are a few pests I’ve seen lately:

Leaf-footed bug, a relative of stink bugs that likes to eat garden fruits and veggies

Japanese Beetles mating on my canna lilies…grrr!

The dreaded Squash Vine Borer. Killing off my zucchini plants like it ain’t no thang.

Cabbage white caterpillar decimating my broccoli plants.

Cabbage white caterpillar decimating my broccoli plants.

Tree Frogs

In the week or two since we’ve been under the weather, there has been a MASSIVE explosion in our tree frog population. Baby tree frogs are EVERYWHERE. While mowing our yard yesterday, I felt like I was playing frogger in the most literal way. I had to slow WAY down to coax the little tree frogs out of the mower’s path. As far as I know, I didn’t hit any, but some of them seemed to have a death wish. Ironically, the She Reads Truth Bible Study going on right now is Exodus, and I’m almost at the frog plague part! 

Weeds

In years past, I haven’t stayed on top of pruning like I should, and as a result, our yard ends up looking like a jungle by July. This year, I’m being ruthless with trimming and weeding. There have been a few plants I wasn’t sure of the ID, so I let them grow until I could determine what they were by leaf patterns/flowers/fruits. As it turns out, some of these very giant plants I have been nurturing and protecting are just big ol’ weeds. Oops! Here they are so you don’t make the same mistake I did!

Tech-Y Stuff

Word to the wise, if you have Google Photos on your phone, you can take a photo and use the “lens” functionality to do a quick image search for plant and bug IDs – it’s amazing. It’s also a little bit creepy because it’s Google, after all.

I’m still working on getting pictures updated. It looks like I’ll need to just re-upload most of the photos that aren’t working, so I’ll work from the current post, going back. 

Well that’s all for now! See you back on the blog soon!

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Technical Difficulties

The hard part about keeping an online log of my gardening endeavors is that I have to do COMPUTER STUFF sometimes. I’d rather be frolicking in a meadow somewhere (and usually I am, which is why I post less frequently during the growing season). Most of the time, my nerdy husband can help with the techy stuff… (this great SNL skit comes to mind:)

This time, I’m going to try to fix it myself. Say a prayer and send wine!

Overnight, the majority of my photos on this site disappeared. I still have them locally, but I’m thinking there’s probably an issue with how I’m linking to them in Google Photos. 

So, all that is to say, I’m working on restoring these photos as I can. Here goes!

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More Critters, Flowers, and Photos

The garden is looking great and we’ve had some visits from EVEN MORE critters!

Baby Bunny Alert!

So well camouflaged!

Now I know for sure why my bush beans and sunflowers keep getting “reset” down to nubs! We also have lots of squirrels, who are probably “helping” with that, too.

I’ve picked a few more stems for a small flower arrangement. Still learning how to put them together. It’s a work in progress! This one has zinnias, cosmos, and hydrangeas.

Also, the flowers are attracting plenty of beneficial bugs, like these goldenrod soldier beetles on sweet alyssum flowers and spiders making webs between my cauliflower!

We’ve got a few peppers (these are sweet banana) coming in, and plenty of blooms. Stay tuned for more updates!

 

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Fun with flowers

Though I love to grow things, I am TERRIBLE at flower arranging. Maybe I don’t have the right style of vases? Or maybe it’s my lack of style/decorating sense coming out, but I just don’t know what to do. 

SOMEONE HELP MEH - Happy Squirrel | Make a Meme

BUTTT, I’m growing flowers this year with the intention of actually cutting them and putting them inside my house, so here I am, making sad attempts at arranging bouquets.

Here’s my first one of the season… Benary’s Giant Zinnias, Black-Eyed Susans, Salvia, Cilantro, and Gardenia. These were the result of pruning around my walkways. 

Fun fact, the more you cut flowers (or dead head spent blossoms), the more the plant will keep on flowering. It’s ultimate goal is to set seed before the fall gets here, so it’s going to put it’s energy (up to a certain point) into trying to do that by flowering, fruiting, and setting seed.

I’m slowly learning about cut flower growing, and one rule I’ve been hearing over and over is to stake plants BEFORE you think they need it. It just takes one strong wind gust or storm to topple tall growers, and afterwards, the plant is never really the same. After a plant is blown down, it will regrow, but the stem will be crooked (because it’s trying to grow towards the sun). So I’m doing my best to try to put stakes and twine up now… hopefully I can stay ahead of it!

Does anyone have any pro tips on flower arranging? Should I be using a bigger vase? Different shaped vase? Does this need more greenery? Drop some knowledge on me! I’m all ears!

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Visiting the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Durham

Last Saturday was a hot one! I know it’s not officially summer yet, but this heat and humidity is a REAL doozie. The kids and I met up with one of my high school friends and her kids at Duke Gardens for a snack picnic and adventuring. While we didn’t see much of the gardens (toting a double stroller is doable, but not amazing on some of the gravel paths), we got to see my two favorite sections… the Japanese gardens and the main terrace gardens. Oh, and we also saw koi fish and ducks. For kids, THE most important part of the whole shebang.

Growing up in central NC, I’ve been to Duke Gardens more times than I can count. It’s a great picnic spot, with plenty of room for frisbee games, lounging, and just taking in beautiful scenery. Highly recommend it if you’re in the Durham area. Just be sure to check the basketball schedule, because traffic can be a bear if you go during a home game.

The thing I love most about visiting local gardens is that I can get an idea of what is “grow-able” here. We’re technically in Zone 7, but Duke Gardens (and other professional gardens) do a great job displaying how the right nook or cranny can allow you to swing a plant that maybe only grows in Zones 8+ or 6-. 

It also gives me an opportunity to see what sorts of plants look good together without having to buy them all myself to experiment with at home (though I’m certainly NOT against that :-P). Often, seed packets and nursery plants give you a brief glimpse of what a plant looks like… for instance when it’s in bloom. But nothing beats seeing the foliage, the growing conditions, the height/width, the scent, and all the other tangible characteristics in person. 

Like I said, not a ton of pictures from this visit thanks to having to prevent children from swimming with the koi fish, but I hope to go back soon and will add to this album when I do!

 

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Back Yard Visitors

The other day, while making my morning coffee, something caught my eye out our sliding glass back door. 

We don’t often see deer around here (even though I know someone has been munching on my beans and sunflowers!), so this was a real treat! We watched this fancy girl bound and leap around ours and our neighbors’ back yards for a bit, right before a line of storms swept through.


After having my breakfast, another neighbor texted me to let me know she had found a BABY FAWN (EEKKKK!!!!) just chillin’ in the grass. I grabbed my camera, and went right over, being sure to give baby deer plenty of space. 

Can you spot the baby fawn?

Ain’t she (he?) a cutie?

Thank you, God, for these elegant and graceful creatures!

 

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Visiting the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh

After a long bout of being stuck at home with sick kids, Jonah and I finally got a chance to go out on a date on Thursday! We visited the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh. This garden is one of my favorites! There’s such a wide variety of things to see there. They have SO MANY different garden zones:

  • Rooftop Terrace
  • Asian Valley
  • Butterfly Garden
  • Color Trial Garden (for testing new annuals and tender perennials)
  • Elms
  • Roses
  • Geophytes (bulbs/corms/tubers/rhizomes)
  • Japanese Garden (My FAVORITE!)
  • White Garden
  • Lath House (shade garden)
  • Mixed border
  • Model Gardens
  • Paradise Garden
  • Perennial Border
  • Scree Garden
  • Southall Memorial Garden
  • Winter Garden
  • Xeric Garden

Check out some of the photos below for a virtual tour (hover over the photos for descriptions)! I highly recommend a stop if you’re in the Raleigh area. Since they are affiliated with NC State University, they always have fun programs, classes, and educational opportunities going on for all ages. Jonah and I joked that there must be a rule that academic lectures must include a pun… our favorite from their list this month was “Plant Parenthood: From Planting to Pest Management” (insert groan/eye roll here). You can see a full list of upcoming events on their site. I hope you’ll pay them a visit when you’re in town!  

 

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The Colors Duke, The Colors!

Remember this gem?

Today the Assistant Garden Manager (my oldest daughter) and I, saw a really cool sight – we watched a Green Anole change color right before our eyes! The only reason we noticed this little guy is because we were watering some plants and he hopped right onto our hose reel. When we saw him the first time, he was a brown color, blending in nicely to the compost. When we finished watering, we came back, looking for him and saw a bright green Anole in just about the same location and figured it must be the same one. 

A Green Anole right after he hopped out from some daffodil foliage.

Sure enough, as we continued to watch him, he started to get darker as he did a split on our brick siding. So cool!

Will we see this guy participating in the 2024 Olympics???

I see you, boo! He’s a regular old Sally O’Malley. What a neat little creature!

A Green Anole peeking out from under our siding.

 

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