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May 24, 2021, Summer is coming

Georgia is known for its hot and long summers. It is still May, but you can feel the approaching steps of summer. Today our highest temperature reached 89 °F. We had to turn on the A/C for the first time to be able to sleep. As for the daytime, we are fortunate to have this woodland backyard. All the oak trees and hickory trees stand high up and connect to each other with their large and thick leaves. On the ground, the filtered sunspots light up the grass here and there. When there is wind, the entire ground twinkles, and sparkles. We opened all the windows facing the backyard, letting the cool air flow through. In this invisible air stream, you can hear a mix of birds singing, leaves whispering, bees buzzing, squirrels chasing each other, sudden alarms set off to warn the community of cats, and occasionally the remote automobile sounds to remind us that we are still living in a city.

Momo's backyard garden view
Backyard garden view from our breakfast table

Unlike last year at this time, the ground is gently covered by a fresh yellow-green. The winter crops have been mowed many times, they are now short and some of them are slowly dying back. The rest of them are mixed with newly grown shade-resistant grass, and a variety of wild native plants: strawberry clovers, clovers, chickweed, wild grass, violets, and dandelions, etc. We only weeded a few aggressive plants particularly the smilax thorns (oh they are such as pain!) and deep-rooted Carolina horsenettle (with thorns not only all over the stems and also sneakily growing on the backside of its leaves. All parts toxic!) These two vigorous weeds seem to have prepared us for an endless battle.

Carolina horsenettle - native American weed
Be very careful when weeding the Carolina Horsenettle. They have thorns under the leaves too.

Besides our perennial flower bed, the meadow is decorated with yellow flowers from dandelions and white or pink clover flowers. Sometimes you can also spot a few wild strawberries, that is before they are eaten by our wildlife friends. Our perennial flower bed is entering its prime stage: roses, lavenders, phloxes, sages, bee balms, speedwells, autumn sages (still blooming!), guaras, cosmos, sweet peas...We have planted all the sun-loving plants and herbs at the edge of the woodland area where there are at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Among all the blooms, bees seem to like guaras, bee balms, and clovers the most. Every morning, when we eat breakfast while facing the backyard, we enjoy seeing the dainty guaras being pushed down by a silly bumblebee and bouncing back once the bee has moved to another guara flower. It is almost like a visualized melody being played by the bees.

Guaras (guara lindheimeri)
Guaras (guara lindheimeri) have proven to be one of bees' favorite

Summer flowers are also busy preparing for their performance. We saw the very first cold-hardy water lily flower just yesterday. The lotus keeps sending its leaves higher and higher, as it has been reading the water level data collected by the previous leaves that failed to stay above the pond water because of the rains. Bog sages are on their way to colonize the edge of our pond. I believe that we only bought one pot of bog sage last year, but now they are at least four times many. We just love this plant. They have an airy and light structure that matches well with the other pond plants such as iris, grass, Mexican petunia, and the Chinese banana. The bog sage flower has a very beautiful and elegant blue color that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. I cannot wait for them to bloom this year! The other summer performers that we are waiting patiently to see are the butterfly bush, the chaste tree, and the beautyberries. They are all deciduous small trees or shrubs that may look barren and boring in the winter. Now they have grown out lush leaves and will reward you soon with the showiest flowers and berries.

pink cold hardy waterlily
Our first waterlily bloom of this year.

Another reward that we have been waiting to receive is the golden bamboo shoots ( read our blog about planting bamboos). We bought three golden bamboos last summer and hoped that they could grow taller in a few years to serve as a privacy screen between us and our neighbor's deck. Guess what. Our wish may very well come true just by this summer. In China, people use the metaphor" like the spring bamboo shoots after the rain" to describe something new that develops very fast. It is not exaggerating! By now the new shoots of this year have almost doubled the original bamboo's height and areas three times as thick. We are closely monitoring the heavy-duty containers that we built for these beautiful monsters!

It is getting hot every day. All of the birds are in the breeding season and we have to refill our feeders every other day to keep the parents fueled. They take a quick bite at the feeder and then look for delicious soft-bodied insects from their babies. The Chickadee family have hatched successfully their first brood and left the birdhouse now. The Carolina wren couple has welcomed 5 babies in our strawberry basket. These baby birds are so tiny and their eyes are not open yet! I noticed that these t babies seem to learn naturally to stay silent when their parents are not around to avoid unnecessary attention. Meanwhile, another big Carolina wren family frequents our deck daily for sunbathing, drinking water, taking baths, and dust bathing in our flower pots. Besides the birdbath in the woodland area, we have put out two more clay bowls with pebbles inside for the little birds to drink and bathe. We also see bees frequently drink from shallow water bowls. In addition, we created a small wildlife pond at the wildlife corner for some mysterious animal friends to better access water resources (see blog How to make a wildlife pond ).

carolina wren sunning
A carolina wren baby bird sunning at our deck

We are slowing down a bit on planting since this Spring. Having observed our backyard in a full year cycle, we have finally grasped the garden's characteristics, outline, and rhythm. We learned to be more selective on what are going to plant next to further enhance this initial draft. The next items on our to-do list are: fill the edge of the flower bed with lavenders, focus on the herb garden, bog areas, and the wildlife pond, and create three compost bins using reused pallets. Our philosophy is to follow the natural structure and simply tidy and make abundant of the garden to please both us and our wildlife friends.

backyard pond
Matt goes straight to our pond after coming back home from work. Our garden provides not only shleter for wildlife, but for us human beings too.

Weather Report: H:91 ° F, L: 63° F

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