The Garden Plot

Ray Baird

Beautiful colors of rainbow in the zinnia bed: One of my grandma’s favorite flowers was the zinnia and she had garden pathways lined with them every summer in her Northampton County front yard. We remember that garden pathway this year as our bed of colorful zinnias produces its rainbow. With every color of the rainbow except blue we wonder why some floral expert hasn’t developed a blue zinnia like they developed the white marigold?

It looks like a bountiful year for butterflies: We hope this year will be like last year when we saw many butterflies even in mid-March. They are certainly plenty of them on the zinnias. The black and yellow Swallowtails as well as the majestic Monarch are frequent visitors to the colorful zinnia bed. No artist can paint a picture as beautiful as the wings of a Tiger Swallowtail.

Christmas in July at the four o’clock bushes: The four o’clocks are putting on a double Christmas in July showoff effort with their pretty green foliage and multi-colored flowers that resemble Christmas ornaments. They have colors of red, yellow, white, wine, pink and mixed shades. These flowers are durable and long-lasting with stead blooms all the way until frost.

The songs of a summer night: Mitch Miller and the Gang composed a song in the late 1950s called “Song for a Summer Night”. Its hauntingly beautiful melody reminds us of these summer nights when crickets, Katydids, whippoorwills, owls and yes, mocking birds sing their songs on a summer night. We think their song is a happy one as fireflies flash and a full Buck moon shines and all nature harmonizes.

A trip to the blueberry farms in July: In the early hours of a Dog Day morning in July, the opportunity arises for a trip to the nearest pick-your-own blueberry field. Early morning, before the sun heats up the day is the best time to pick a few gallons of blueberries to freeze for winter and for making blueberry muffins or pie for supper tonight. To harvest blueberries requires a lot of patience because it takes a lot of blueberries to fill a bucket and this is why you need to pick early in the morning before kids or grandkids get out of bed because their patience will wear thin in the blueberry field. One advantage is, there are no thorns like blackberries and you don’t have to crawl through rows like in strawberry fields. To freeze blueberries, pour two quarts at a time in a sink of cold water. The unripe and berries with stems will usually float to the top. Drain the washed berries on a cloth towel and place in plastic quart freezer containers. In winter, they will taste like fresh berries.

Keeping birdbaths and hummingbird feeders filled: Water evaporates very quickly on Dog Day afternoons and that remaining in birdbaths gets hot. Empty this water and refill the bath with fresh cool water to give birds a refreshing drink at sunset. Even though there are flowers in bloom, keep food in the hummingbird feeders to provide them a quick and easy meal. You can make your own with a half and half mixture of sugar and water plus a few drops of liquid red food coloring. You can buy powdered mix in packs or ready-made in quart or half gallon containers.

A quick perk for cut summer roses: Give the summer roses a little tender loving care to promote more blooms. Pinch off spent blooms to promote new blooms. Fertilize every ten days through August with a shot of Miracle-Gro liquid fertilizer applied with a two gallon water sprinkle can. You can also use pellet rose fertilizer stirred around the base of the bushes.

Big guns of summer and colorful rainbows: The big blooms of summer plus Dog Day humidity produces rain-laden clouds, thunder, lightning, a hefty thunderstorm and in its aftermath a colorful rainbow followed by a summer evening of fireflies.

2017 Solar Eclipse: A journey to the path of totality: This is the area where the eclipse of the sun on Monday, August 21, 2017 will reach total darkness. We are less than 225 to 295 miles from these paths where the eclipse will be total. These paths are in Columbia, S.C. and Charleston, S.C. The eclipse can be seen in our area but it will not be in totality, but only half of the sun will be eclipsed. The eclipse will begin on the Pacific coast at 11:40 A.M. on Monday, August 21, 2017 and the sun reaches total eclipse at 2:22 P.M. and totality last for two minutes and forty seconds. The eclipse ends at 4:51 P.M. Never watch the eclipse with the naked eye. Only when you are in the patch of totality and only for the2.40 minutes of totality should you observe with the naked eye. Between now and August 21, 2107, many businesses, optical shops and astronomy shops will be selling special eclipse-designed glasses for eye protection. Do not use sunglasses because they do not filter the sun’s rays when looking directly at it. We are pretty sure you can find eclipse glasses online and they should be a popular item between now and the eclipse. Even if you go to Columbia or Charleston and can’t find a room, most likely on the Interstates, you can find accommodations. Just remember this is a spectacular event, you do not need a grandstand front row seats. Just a parking lot or a roadside area on a South Carolina country road! Another one in the United States will not occur in totality until April 8, 2024 and this path of totality will be north from Texas to Cleveland, Ohio, Buffalo and Rochester N.Y. and into Burlington, Vermont into Maine and Canada. If the weather is clear on August 21, 2017, Charleston will be eclipsed in total darkness for almost two minutes of darkness. Another fact to mention is that small towns and villages around Charleston and Columbia will be in the path of totality. What a perfect time for a day trip if the forecast is clear and sunny. Especially to Charleston with some crab cakes, clam chowder and low country gumbo!

Ray Baird

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