Thursday, January 11, 2024

Winter Observations

I am outside every day, multiple times a day with the dogs. This time of year I see so many different things. Looking down, along the house I see that I have an oakleaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia growing along the foundation of the house. This area gets water from the condensation pipe from the AC, so it makes a nice place to try and root new shrubs. I thought I had dug up the whole shrub and put it in a new place, guess not. 

Hydrangea quercifolia

Moss covers the ground in this area in a thick patch. Have you ever looked closely at a patch of moss? It is quite delightful. 

I have wildflowers/volunteers that sprout up throughout the garden and into the woods. I think this is Solidago sp. Goldenrod. The pollinators love it and I don't mind volunteers.

Solidago sp.
Continuing looking at the ground, I see lots of nuts - hickory nuts and acorns are so plentiful that one could fall on the hillside, it is like walking on marbles. 

hickory nut

Some of my daffodils are emerging through the leaves. I moved these out of a container last year in the spring. Narcissus 'Hawera', pretty petit blooms. 

As I walk through the yard I catch the fragrance of a new bloom. Currently the prevailing fragrance is from my flowering apricot, Prunus mume 'Hokkai bungo'. It has a lovely hint of cinnamon in its fragrance, I really enjoy it. The honey bees enjoy it as well.

Prunus mume 'Hokkai bungo'

No, this wasn't the apricot, the Edgeworthia chrysantha is starting to open! It will bloom now through March. The fragrance is wonderful.  

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Look up and look down, you never know what you will find. We have a lot of fallen branches in the woods, some are covered with lichen and fungus, almost other worldly. 
Jelly fungus mushroom

Jelly fungus and lichen

Also growing low are my Hellebores, this one is Pink Frost. It is one of my earliest ones to bloom. Helleborus x ballardiae HGC 'Pink Frost'- beautiful buds, almost open.

Pink Frost

My last observation for this post is a crazy orange flower, or what is left of a flower on my gardenia. Gardenia jasminoides 'Frostproof'. As you know, the blooms on gardenias are white. This orange coloring caught my eye. Not sure what happened to give off this dark orange color, but will watch for others in future years to see if it happens again.

Gardenia jasminoides 'Frostproof'

What do you see in the garden this time of year? Look closely, you might find something amazing!

©Copyright 2024 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Time for A Refresh!

Time to redo the lakeside. For those who have followed along with our move to South Carolina thirteen years ago, some of these photos might be familiar. We built the house, dock and lakeside patio while in Virginia. We documented the progress each time we visited.


The bank of the lake was river rocks as riprap. The elevation in the backyard went from lake level of 440 feet above sea level to 450 feet above sea level near the trees to about 460 where the house is located.

Flagstone patio 2013
The flagstone patio was a nice spot to sit and enjoy lake views. Our brightly colored chairs stand out, allowing those on the water to know where our place is. 


Over the years the gardens evolved. The slope about killed me when trying to pull weeds or even walk on the pine straw.  In 2019 we decided to do a makeover and streamline the plant material. Ferns, Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah',  Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine' and a few Podocarpus macrophyllus 'Pringles Dwarf' lined the shoreline. Looked good for a while....


Winter water levels are lower, so you see some of the sandy shoreline. Ferns and some of the Panicum filled in, the deer kept eating the Podocarpus, and about half of the Illicium failed.


Midway through the thirteen years we had some heavy rains that over the years created a washout under the patio near the stone steps to the dock. The patio was in a slow collapse. The weeds grew up through the spaces between the stones. Some of the weeds were trees with long tap roots or wild hibiscus that reseed all along the shoreline with large root systems, both tough to pull out.


Fast forward to this winter- the decision was made to get a seawall to replace the riprap, semi-level out the slope of the yard in the lower area, remove the patio and sod it to create an easier area to maintain. Permits were obtained, then the sequencing of removing the electric line from the house to the dock and back to the irrigation pump, removing the irrigation lines and pump, disconnect the fresh water line from the house to a spigot near the pump, then wait for the seawall work to begin. Heavy equipment came in and made quick work of the yard and seawall installation. 


Getting things put back wasn't as easy, nor timely. The irrigation and electric guys sort of coordinated their work, wet weather delayed a good bit of it. (Short story- we installed a new pump in the late summer. When it was time to disconnect it for the winter, it went quite easily. After patting ourselves on our backs, we forgot to turn off the power to the pump at the house. The pump was scheduled to run that night... oops. Not sure if the pump has an automatic shut-off but we worried that the pump burned out. Since it was already drained, we just waited until reconnection in the spring to see if we needed to buy another new pump.) Once the electric was back connected we tested the pump. Hooray!! The pump wasn't burned out, works well. After the electricians finished, then we waited for irrigation to be put back in. After installation, I tested the valves and all were working! 
Because of the rain and no sod in the lower part of the yard, I had no need to run the sprinklers until a few days ago. A couple sprinkler heads are no longer connected, so until they come back out I have some hoses and sprinklers to get the areas where needed.
Sod time. The guys came and prepped the yard for two days to level out the ravines where rain had worn ruts in the raw soil. There were a lot of large rocks that needed to be removed, you can't grow grass on a rock. Sod was put down today. Once it is rooted in and growing this lower part of the yard will be a great spot to play with the grandkids when they visit and the dog(s).

2023 June
The yard is a lot bigger!! Thanks for reading!

©Copyright 2023 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

South Carolina Snakes and More

We have an abundance of wildlife in our area. Sure there are deer and turkeys and fox and even coyote. The wildlife I am writing about is more in the reptile family tree. We have many snakes in our neighborhood and only one is venomous, the Copperhead. There others in nearby counties, but in Greenwood it is the Copperhead you need to be aware of.
Let's start with some less frightening reptiles. Who doesn't love a baby turtle? How about a handful of three newly hatched turtles?  I came across these little ones while planting a hydrangea along the side of the house. After a quick picture, I put them back where I found them. 

Fast forward ten years, came across another newly hatched turtle in the same area of the garden. 

Another reptile that we have everywhere is an Anole, Anolis carolinensis. When newly hatched they are about an inch or so in size. Just too cute.

There are Eastern Fence lizards, varying in size from teeny tiny to about almost eight inches from head to tail. 

Now that we have touched on some of the legged reptiles (and there are so many others- multiple Skinks and Glass Lizards), it is time to venture to the snakes in the Upstate of South Carolina. Now you can ask some self-proclaimed experts and they will tell you about lots of venomous snakes. Not true. I have a few sources to back up my information. One of the best is the Savannah River Ecology Lab from the University of Georgia. I have two friends, one retired from and one currently employed by Department of Natural Resources in South Carolina. I have one almost on speed dial. He backs up all his identifications with a link to the said snake's ID document. 

So let's look at the snakes I see regularly in my yard/garden. 

I will ease you in slowly- Here's a pretty one- 

Above and below- Rough Green Snake. It is a lovely emerald green and quite small. Their diet is insects, spiders and other small invertebrates.

On to the various black snakes we have. 

There is the Black Racer, who is really fast.  These guys will really move through the garden to get away from you. They are mostly black with a little bit of white under their chin. Their diet is mostly insects, other snakes, lizards, birds and amphibians. 

Black Racer

 Next is the Blackrat Snake. Their diets include lizards, frogs and rodents (yea!). They are also fond of duck eggs. They are quite common in our area and while mostly black, they have a good bit of white on them. They will try to look tough to scare you away.

Black Ratsnake

If frightened they will 'freeze' and assume a kinked position. In the grass that helps them disappear, though not so much on the pavement.

Black Ratsnake

The juvenile Rat Snake is more varied in coloration. 

Juvenile Black Ratsnake

I find I have a resident Rat Snake near the dryer vent. I tried to pull it out one time, but he held fast. It is in the space between the ductwork and the wall. Always fun to be in the wild!

The third black colored snake that is common in our area is the Eastern Kingsnake. They are black with white markings that look like cyclone fencing to me. It is one you want to have around if there are Copperheads- Kingsnakes eat Copperheads. Their diet includes snakes, lizards, rodents, turtle eggs, and birds. They are resistant to the venom of the Copperhead. 

Eastern Kingsnake

There are many tiny snakes.  First, Worm Snake. My phone-a-friend gave me a hard time when I first found this one. I was not sure what it was but described it as a snake that looked like a worm. He came back with a smart comment that I will not share. They feed exclusively on earthworms. 

Worm Snake

A couple that I confused with each other- Redbellied Snake, who feeds on slugs,

Redbellied Snake

Redbellied Snake

and DeKay's Brown snake. They are closely related. Brown snake also eats slugs as well as earthworms and other small invertebrates.

DeKay's Brown Snake

Another small snake is a Ringneck Snake-  pictured below is a hatchling next to a piece of pine straw. They can grow to 10 - 15 inches in length. Diet includes amphibians, small invertebrates, and lizards. 

Ringneck Snake

Not to be confused with the Redbellied snake, there is also a Red-bellied Watersnake. While they are a water snake, they can be found in the yard. They eat primarily amphibians but also eat fish.  

Red-bellied Watersnake

Note the red/orange underside of the snake. They are really attractive.

Red-bellied Watersnake

Another colorful snake is the Corn Snake. They eat larger prey- birds, small mammals, lizards and reptiles.
Corn Snake

Corn Snake

Next come two that are closely related, both water snakes. First Northern Watersnake. This snake is often confused with a Cottonmouth (venomous) snake. Cottonmouth or water moccasin have different markings, bands instead of blotches. The Northern Watersnake's diet is primarily fish and amphibians. 

Northern Watersnake

Northern Watersnake

The other watersnake is the Brown Watersnake. It is not common in our area but seem to be showing up more often in recent years. This photo was shared by a neighbor, wanting to know friend or foe. The Brown Watersnake's diet is primarily young catfish. 

Brown Watersnake photo credit Barb Warner

Finally we come to our venomous snake. The Copperhead. Their most distinctive marking is on their side- it looks like a Hershey' kiss. This is a snake to avoid. Another neighbor sent me this photo, asking what it was. She was walking, looking elsewhere and tripped over it!!!  Young Copperhead snakes have a yellow tip to their tail, very distinctive. Their diets are pretty wide. They eat small mammals, birds, lizards, and other reptiles. 

Copperhead photo credit Laurie English

Thanks for following along with me on our photo journey of snakes in the Upstate of South Carolina. There are other snakes I did not profile as I have not seen them. I have comments allowed, if you comment, please sign your name so I know who has visited.
Many thanks to my phone-a-friend buddy Win Ott. 

©Copyright 2022 Janet. All rights reserved. Content created by Janet for The Queen of Seaford. words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.