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Renee’s Garden Seeds Update – End of Summer 2020

Renee’s Garden Seeds Update – End of Summer 2020

Our spring was spent building a new section of garden that would be attractive to birds, bees, and butterflies. Renee’s Garden seeds played a big part in filling our new garden beds with color, variety, and beautiful flowers. (See our start to the garden in this entry: Renee’s Garden 2020.)

Renees garden seeds update 2020

Because of our harsh climate zone, we’ve struggled with finding garden plants that will survive through the cold, long winter we have in Central Oregon. Our solution is to plant both a mix of annual and perennial flowers, as well as native wildflowers and shrubs. This strategy has worked in our front yard and now we’re continuing that mix in our back garden.

renees garden seeds 2020 (2)

Earlier this year, we rototilled and cleared about 1,200 square feet of scruffy grass and then proceeded to build two long, narrow garden boxes. Our aim was to make it not only more beautiful, but to have a more attractive garden space for bees, birds, and butterflies. A bonus side benefit is that we now have a peaceful spot to sit in the garden to enjoy all of the creatures that visit.  The birds love the bird bath for drinking and bathing and they will often come even with us sitting close by.

Here are some of the Renee’s Garden seeds we chose:

Rainbow of California Poppies: This variety of poppies is now my absolute favorite! I love the pastel colors that are in this mix and I go out every day to see which ones are blooming. They are thriving in our climate which is surprising but very much appreciated. I will be planting more of these in years to come.

renees garden seeds 2020 (4)

Early Blooming Beekeeper’s Mix: We enjoyed this mix so much last year that we added it to the list again this year. The sweetly colored flowers are hardy enough to last through our very cool summer nights.

renees garden seeds 2020 (8)

Seeds for a Butterfly Garden: I think I planted too many seeds in our box but the sunflowers and cosmos don’t seem to mind. The zinnias are growing up under the cosmos and need to lean way out to reach for the sun. If I did this combination again, I would plant far fewer cosmos. Still, I’m anxious to see how the sunflowers do once they start blooming.

renees garden seeds 2020 (7)

Chocolate Cherry Sunflowers: LOVE this sunflower! It’s an all time favorite of ours that we grew in California and it thrives here in Central Oregon as well.

renees garden seeds 2020 (5)

Van Gogh Sunflowers: This sunflower with the quintessential shape and color is attracting bees and various other insects to the new garden. The finches are stopping by to nibble on the leaves too!

renees garden seeds 2020 (7)

Heirloom Blue Delphiniums: These seeds have sprouted and are growing….slowly. I’m not sure what to think and I will have to update you later in the season as to whether they actually bloom or not.

renees garden poppy sunflower 2020 (2)

Heirloom Pepperbox Poppies:  This is our second year growing these magnificent poppies in our back yard. There are a variety of colors and shapes in the packet, producing gorgeous blooms that the bees buzz around all summer long. I highly recommend these poppies.

Renees garden seeds update 2020

Please note that I receive some of the seeds as a promotional thank you from Renee’s Garden. I’ve purchased and used her seeds for many years now and I’m never disappointed.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Garden Wildflower and Weeds Index @handbookofnaturestudy

Click over to my garden resources and see if you find some inspiration to get you going.


Instagram OutdoorHourChallenge small

I post lots of images of the garden on my Instagram account. Click over and follow if you’re on Instagram. Also, if you tag your photos with #outdoorhourchallenge, I’ll stop by and see what you are up to in your nature study.




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Lovely Lavender Days and Lavender Nature Study

I love all things lavender! It is the predominant plant and the predominant color in my front yard. Just about everyone who visits my house comments on the lovely fragrance of lavender as they walk up the front walk.

Lavender #1 (which we always call English lavender): Fragrant light lavender with silvery-green stem that is stiff and woody. This is the lavender I harvest and make potpourri for sachets from because it smells just like perfume.The large plants have grown over part of the walkway so when you brush by them you are treated to a perfumy delight.

I have missed the prime time for harvesting this summer because of travel but I will still go out early in the morning in the next few days and cut the blossoms to dry for a big batch of fragrant potpourri to have on hand.

Lavender along the walkway (sage in the background)

Lavender #2 (which we always call Spanish lavender): Spicy lavender scent with feathery soft leaves and petals that look like wings on the top. The leaves when rubbed are just as fragrant as the actual flower. We learned to prune this lavender last fall and it came back with a growth spurt I couldn’t believe was possible. I am pruning it way back again this year.

Lavender with “wings” on top and fern-like leaves

Are you interested in learning more about lavender? My daughter and I created a Hearts and Trees Kit that features lavender nature study and a lavender sachet sewing project. The lavender nature study is in the form of an Outdoor Hour Challenge and I wrote a narrative that mimics the style of Anna Botsford Comstock in the Handbook of Nature Study. You will really enjoy this study and your children will learn a lot about lavender.

I am pleased to announce that for the next ten days you can purchase a Hearts and Trees Kit featuring lavender nature study and a lavender sachet craft and receive FREE SHIPPING.

You must use the buttons below to receive the special discount.
For the lavender focused part of this kit, your child will create a dried lavender sachet. The fabric, thread, needle yarn and dried lavender and instructions are included. ***PLEASE NOTE: If you or your child is allergic to lavender just let us know and we will not send the dried lavender!***
There is also an eight page nature journal focusing on lavender. Your child will assemble the nature journal using the cover, pages and a length of twine. A sample lavender flower is provided for you to study. The cardboard, rubber bands and link to instructions are provided so that you can make a flower press. Waxed paper and instructions are also included to make a waxed paper pouch to mount the pressed lavender into the nature journal.

There is more to the kit! Each one includes:
  • 2 sewing projects
  • 2 handicraft projects
  • 1 painting project
  • 1 drawing project
  • 1 nature study collection of projects focusing on lavender
  • 1 artist study collection of notebooking pages with art print

These kits were gathered with children ages 6-12 in mind. Parents may need to help their students, especially younger children, with some aspects of this kit. (Please note you will need to supply some common art supplies to complete these projects such as scissors, paintbrush and markers. A list of common supplies you will need is included with the kit.)

Hearts and Trees Lavender and Bubbles Kit 

Hearts and Trees Bubbles and Lavender Kit–FREE SHIPPING

 If you have any questions,  email me or my daughter (

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Up-Close Insect Observations and a Relaxed Form of Nature Study

This past month saw a return of the Outdoor Hour Challenge to a more topical approach as opposed to a seasonal approach. For our family, it breathed new life into our time outdoors and although we had a focus we were much more open to letting things just happen.

As we gardened, sat outside for our dinners, and traveled to various local locations, the insect topics came to us and we worked on paying close attention to the opportunities. This truly is the kind of nature study that interweaves itself into your everyday life, the kind you can do just about every day.

We were trimming lavender when we noticed this foamy white globs on many of the plants. We knew right away that it was some sort of insect that was creating these globs but we were not sure which insect. When we were back inside, I Googled “white foam on lavender” and right away we could easily see this was a common search. There were many resources that all pointed to the Spittlebug.

After doing some reading online, we found that it is many times found on rosemary plants too so we went out to look. Yes! There it was on our rosemary plants.

  • They are related to aphids.
  • They feed by extracting plant sap.
  • Nymphs cover themselves with a frothy mass that provides protection from predators.
  • There can be more than one nymph in a glob.
  • Oh, and the “spittle” is not spittle at all and actually comes from the other end of the insect. 🙂

Although they can do minimal damage to plants (according to most sources we read online), we decided to take the advice of most and just wash the globs off with the hose. Easy enough.

We have had a huge increase in the number of flying insects in the front garden. The sage, the butterfly bushes, and the lavender are all still in bloom and each day there are hundreds of flying creatures that come to enjoy the flowery goodness. The fiery skipper above is the most common butterfly we have in our garden at this time of year. Isn’t it amazing to see all the parts up close? Can you see the probiscus?

The bees are thick and it makes me realize how easy it is to provide a healthy bee habitat. Plant bee friendly plants and provide even the smallest amount of water and they find you. We had a visitor the other day ask if we were afraid of bee stings and I honestly answered that even though we are in close contact with the bees, they avoid us more than we avoid them.

The flying insect we do have trouble with is the yellow jacket. We had to put up a trap for them because they were stinging my son…..who somehow seems to attract them. Every evening when we sit outside to eat our dinner, one or two of the pesky little insects come to buzz around us and our plates of food. They are very persistent this year for some reason. I think this is the fourth time we have had to rebait our yellow jacket trap. This style has been very successful for us and it is very economical to use since you just buy little packets to bait the trap after it gets full. (You can buy them on Amazon: Rescue WHYTR-BB8 Wasp Hornet Yellow Jacket Trap Reusable.)

I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between native plants, non-native plants, and insects since reading a book on this topic. Bringing Nature Home is another one of the books I received from Timber Press to review and share with you in a post. This book goes more deeply into how introducing non-native plants into our habitats creates an environment that can make life harder for native insects and plants.

It is far more in-depth than I could grasp on the first time through reading it but it has given me lots to think about. It is a book that makes me wish I was staring over with choosing plants for our whole yard but since I can’t do that, I can look forward and make better choices in the future.

If you are interested in reading and learning about how plants and insects (and other creatures), both native and non-native, thrive or die because of choices we humans make….this is the book for you. I am going to read it through again once I have some time to think and meditate on my responsibility as a garden owner.

We are still experiencing temperatures far above normal and the abundance of sunshine has drawn us out into the garden just about every day this week. We did lots of pruning and composting but we are still delaying our actual autumn garden clean-up until we see a change in the weather. The birds and insects and I suspect a skunk and raccoon are still frequenting our garden and enjoying the food source.


Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Ant Nature Study- Right in Our Own Backyard

I finally remembered where I had seen lots of ants….on our backyard trumpet vines. This morning I had a chance to go out with Mr. A and take a closer look armed with our cameras and a desire to learn more.

After watching the ants for a few minutes, I realized they were not the only insect enjoying this colorful vine. The honeybees were buzzing right at ear level and even though I knew they were not interested much in me, I felt the need to keep getting out of their way.  They were very active and in the photo above you can see there would be multiple bees in one flower. This one had four!

After coming back inside, we did some research online to reveal why the ants are on the trumpet vine. There seems to be two lines of thinking:
1. The ants are farming aphids that also live on the trumpet vine.
2. The ants are actually partaking of the nectar found in the trumpet vine blossom.

This led to more outdoor time trying to discover which it was in our case.They definitely were interested in the flowers so I think our ants were after the nectar of the flowers.

According to the USDA, the trumpet vine is a habitat to the hummingbird, the butterfly, and the ant.  I thought it was interesting that the USDA also considers the trumpet vine to be an “invasive weed”. We have had trouble with it sending out its sucker roots and coming up in the lawn but we just keep mowing them down.

Of course, Kona needed a little attention when we were out looking for ants. Smile Kona!

We ended up walking around the garden and ticking off a few of our insect grid tasks…and finding two surprising insects which I will save for my grid study entry next week. I love the way we start off looking for something as simple as an ant, find ourselves asking a question that we answer with more research, investigate some more about a plant we have in our backyard, and end up really enjoy our time together. Although we had a focus in mind when we went outside, the nature study part was very relaxed and natural.

Right in our own backyard.

I am going to record the insects we saw on my insect list from the monthly newsletter, make a nature journal entry for the trumpet vine since we did all the research, and mark off several of the squares on our insect grid.

OHC Blog Carnival
Hope you are enjoying your monthly focus on insects this month and don’t forget to send in your blog entries for the carnival.

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Early Spring Garden – Springing to Life

Garden coming to life collage
Lemon thyme, Oregano, Garlic chives, and Strawberry Blossoms

It is time for our early spring garden clean up where we start to tidy up the beds in anticipation of a new growing season. Mr. B and I spent a few hours in the garden trimming, weeding, raking, and enjoying the sights and smells of early spring.

Our front yard habitat is full of insects and flowers. The first of the season’s yarrow is blossoming and the plants look super healthy. We weren’t sure these would over-winter but they did beautifully…may add some more to fill in the spaces.

insect on rock  (1)

Hello little creature! These insects (some sort of beetle?) are showing their faces now that the rocks are warming up.

bee on lavender (1)

I love this image with my lavender and the bee! It seems like you are peering down into a whole different world. The lavender is alive with bees with their humming and buzzing. Go bees!

dandelions (2)

I know most of you real gardeners will shudder when I tell you that I keep part of my yard just for the dandelions. I love these happy yellow flowers and the bees agree with me too!

bee balm

The bee balm is springing to life in the side yard and we pruned the neighboring bushes back to allow some more sunlight. I look forward to seeing the red blooms of this flower in the summer.

flowering quince (2)

This is actually my neighbor’s flowering quince that is blooming. I am sharing it here because it has inspired me to plant a few of these in our yard for next spring’s color. Aren’t they gorgeous? I am actually wavering between this bush and the redbud….haven’t totally made up my mind yet.

So there is a little garden update from a sunny afternoon’s walk in the garden.

It is not too late to print and complete the First Day of Spring printable or complete the Spring Splendor Walk challenge. Join us!

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Fall Insects and A Pear Tree Update

Bee on the Sunflower

Cooler weather means more time spent outside during the day….we went from really hot weather to cool weather in the span of a day or two. I am so pleased with these late blooming sunflowers and I am going to plant more of them next year. The insects have been visiting them every day and when I went out to snip a few flowers for the kitchen table, I saw this big guy!

Praying Mantis

This praying mantis decided to hang out on my stove one morning. It must have been pretty funny watching me try to scoop him up while he was hopping from side to side. I would try to scoop him up and he would hop just out of my reach. I would try again and he would hop too fast. Finally I got a bowl and set it over him and then slid a piece of paper under the bowl. Success! I transplanted him outside to my potted plants and he was happy to pose for a few minutes on the allysum.

Skipper on the Butterfly Bush

Our butterfly bushes are still blooming, in white, lavender, and deep purple. I see the hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies all buzzing in and around in the morning sunshine. Makes me happy to see such a busy community right in my flowerbeds. We have spotted a few monarchs lately…none captured with the camera yet. They are fast!

Pears on the Tree

We were out for a drive and took a back road only to find a pear orchard within about two miles of my house! It is tucked away off the beaten path and as we slowly drove down the lane I tried to snap a few images…..glorious fall pears to enjoy!

We are going out and about tomorrow so stay tuned for some more back roads loveliness.

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Late Blooming Sunflowers – First Day of Autumn Beauty

Prairie Sunflowers 1

My Prairie Sunflowers are now blooming…took all summer but they are now showing their very cheery faces. I am sort of glad they waited so long to bloom because all the other sunflowers are done and in the compost.

How would you like a great link to a some coloring book pages?
Celebrate Wildflowers

Prairie Sunflowers 2

Apparently, flowers have a “biological clock”. I have been fascinated with this idea all summer and I think it makes for an interesting read: How To Make A Flower Clock.  On that note, my Four O’Clocks are just about ready to bloom. I have been nursing them along all summer and I think they finally are getting some flower buds…need to watch for the bloom time.

Bees in the Trumpet Vine

We still have an abundance of insects in our late summer/early autumn garden. In fact, they are even more active from what I have observed. These bees were loving the trumpet vines…sharing at times with the hummingbirds. Make your own Bee Observations (free printable from HomeschoolShare.Com – Click the Bee Lapbook and then print Observation Cards and Pocket).

Zinnia in Garden - Yellow

Our zinnias are such great performers and are relatively maintenance free except for cutting the flowers and enjoying them in a vase on your kitchen table. 🙂

Container Dahlias 1

We have enjoyed our container dahlias this year…seeds from Rene’s Garden. I found this paper craft for dahlias…so very pretty and fun. Then again, I may just pull out the watercolors later and made an entry in my journal.

We are working on cleaning up the garden … lots of trimming, raking, pruning, harvesting, picking, and composting going on here. Garden update next week.

Have a wonderful first day of autumn.

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Sunflower Garden – July Newsletter Grid Study

Sunflower Garden
Our Sunflower Garden July 17, 2011

Sunflowers are the theme of our garden this year….as anticipated. We planted our seeds on May 10th and they started blooming on July 16th. That is a long time to wait but so worth the time and effort! Now with the July Newsletter focus on sunflowers using the Nature Study Grid and notebooking page, we are slowing down to do some careful observations. This is also made easy by the fact that we are participating in the Great Sunflower Project and counting bees.

Here are the first of our blooms.

Sunflower with Pollen
Sunflower with lots of pollen!

This is actually not one of the seeds that we planted but it popped up under the birdfeeder. They are a perfect complement to our little backyard feeder garden.

Royal Flush Sunflower

From Renee’s Garden Seeds – Royal Flush. I love the watercolor like colors in this bloom.

Chocolate Cherry Sunflower

Here is another one from Renee’s Garden – Chocolate Cherry. Amazing color in the garden!

Sunflower Unfolding

I think this is the third seed from Renee’s Garden – Van Gogh.

Sunflower with Little Spider

We found this spider crawling on a big sunflower last week…..he sure blends in.

Sunflowers Under the Birdfeeder

Here is another image from the volunteer sunflowers around the birdfeeder. If you look carefully, you can see that these are actually two different kinds of sunflowers.

Coneflowers with a Bee
Another bee favorite in our yard is the coneflower. They are rather tall this year and always full of buzzing bees. Coneflowers are on the list of bee attractive plants that you can use as part of the Great Sunflower Project this summer.

Bee Balm with a Bee

How about that bee? He is in our bee balm and loving it. I decided this is a plant that I need to add to more of my flower garden next year.

Sunflower Nature Study Grid

We have been busy learning some new things and making lots of detailed observations using all of our sunflowers. How about your family? Have you done your July Newsletter sunflower study? I look forward to seeing your entries in the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival.

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Honeybees and the Great Sunflower Project – Nature Study Using the Handbook of Nature Study

Bees on the Lavender

Our choice for the Garden Critter study this month is the honeybee. We have been building a bee, butterfly, and bird habitat in our yard this year and it seemed fitting that we take a few minutes to read in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 99) about this welcome guest to our garden.

We have planted many bee attractive plants and every day, rain or shine, they come to visit. Their favorite spot in the yard is the center square filled with lavender. If you sit close by, you can hear the buzzing of wings and you can watch their activity among the flowers.

Bee Garden - Water Source
Water for the Bees – Lavender and Baby Lemon Queen Sunflowers

We read recently online that bees need water as part of their habitat. We found a shallow pie pan, filled it with an assortment of local rocks we had on hand, and then filled it with water. The rain has kept it filled but now that the weather is looking like it will remain dry, I will just replenish the water when I water the garden. Here is a really informative article about Planting a Bee Garden.

Honeybee entry (3)
We found this webpage very helpful: California Habitat Gardening and this one too: Bee Friendly Gardens.

bee with pollen on sunflower

This is what we are aiming for…image from two summers ago in our sunflowers. Can you believe that pollen?

We will be taking part in the Great Sunflower Project later in the summer. I highly recommend this nature activity which is fun and simple to do as a family. Click below for more information.

Great Sunflower Project Button

Don’t forget to post and then submit your June Newsletter nature studies to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Here is THE LINK. If you need to find the link quickly, it is at the top of my blog in a couple of places for easy access.

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!

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Ideas for Garden Critter Nature Study – June Newsletter Suggestions

Roses in the Garden

As part of the June Newsletter, I suggested that you try to find a garden critter to observe and study using the Handbook of Nature Study. There are already quite a few challenges that feature critters that you may come across in your own garden. Using the Outdoor Hour Challenge does not need to take a lot of time. In fact, I originally started the challenges and expected participants to only spend 10-15 minutes outdoors with their children. You do not need to make your nature study into a unit study or complicated. In fact, the simpler the better since it usually means the children are following their interests. If you already own the Getting Started ebook, you can use the first five challenges along with the suggestions in the June Newsletter.

Here are a few links to challenges that you may wish to think about using as part of the Garden Critter suggestion in the June Newsletter.

Beans and Sunflowers Sprouts

Have fun exploring your garden or yard for something interesting to learn more about in your nature study. You might try to go outside early in the morning or later in the evening when the temperatures are cooler and there may be more critters moving around.

Make sure to follow up your study with the chance for a nature journal entry. Look up the answers to any questions your children may have either in the Handbook of Nature Study or at your local library. After you make your blog entry about your garden critter, submit it to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Remember every entry to the carnival is an entry in my June Newsletter Giveaway for a Squirrel Buster Birdfeeder.