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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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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Poppy and Buttercup Wildflower Study

Poppies and Buttercups @handbookofnaturestudyOutdoor Hour Challenge

Poppy and Buttercup Wildflower Study

From the Archives and in the More Nature Study – Spring ebook

We are going to go on a search for poppies and buttercups this week! In my world, this is prime time for both of these wildflowers. In fact, I have some blooming right in my front yard!

Join me using the ideas from the archive post linked above or you can download the More Nature Study –Spring ebook if you are an Ultimate Naturalist Library member.

You may with to create a poppy nature journal entry using the idea I shared in this post from the past: Nature Journal Tutorial.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Wildflower Set 1 Ebook

How do you get the new Wildflower Nature Study ebook?

Members of the Ultimate Naturalist and Journey levels have access to the new ebook in their library. You need to click the “Members Area” button at the top of the website, sign into your account, and the ebook is there to download and save for your family to use when desired. If you don’t have a membership yet, I am offering a $5 off discount code that will be good towards your Ultimate Naturalist membership.

Discount Code: Wildflower5


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Handbook of Nature Study – May Printables

 Outdoor Hour Challenge May 2016 Monthly Printables for Members @handbookofnaturestudy


Take a look at the two new printables available in the Member’s Library for both the Ultimate and Journey level memberships. There is a simple Northern mockingbird notebook page and also a set of notebook and coloring pages for the buttercup and the poppy (4 pages in all). For a complete list of member’s printables, click the button below for a printable list.


Printables for Members Button

Please note that Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level members have access to members only printables each month in addition to the newsletter printables. You will need to log into your account and then go to the “Other Releases” section. You can download a complete list of printables available to members here: Printables Current List May 2016.


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California Shrub: Western Redbud

These were the blossoms on the Western Redbud a few months ago, before the leaves appeared.
This is what it looks like now.

Western (or California) Redbud

  • Pea family
  • Usually a shrub 7 to 18 feet high.
  • Leaves are round and heart shaped, winter deciduous
  • Bright purple flowers appear in early spring on naked branches, followed by bronze colored leaves that soon turn green.
  • Seed pods appear in July.
  • Grows below 4,000 feet.
  • Drought tolerant and sun-loving.
  • Native Americans highly prized this shrub and used its autumn wine-red branches for basket-making.
I am hoping to have this redbud as part of my lovely front yard for many, many season to come.

I have long wanted a redbud in my yard and when we did our front yard remodel we left a space for one in the front section. I planted poppies around the base and this spring I got to discover how beautifully they work together in my yard. I need to remember that you are to prune it in the fall, winter, or early spring after the leaf drop.

There is a wealth of information in the printable: USDA Western Redbud.

This the second of my shrubs…only three more to go to meet my 2013 goal.

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Spring Wildflowers- California Poppy Nature Study

CA Poppy bursting out

“One of the most interesting performances to watch that I know is the way this poppy takes off its cap before it bows to the world. Like magic the cap loosens around the base; it is then pushed off by the swelling, expanding petals until completely loosened, and finally drops off.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 563

Way back when I was planning the challenges for the More Nature Study Book #3, I had no way of knowing what perfect timing I would have with this particular Poppies and Buttercups Challenge. We were treated to two events this week in connection with our poppy study.

CA Poppy Merced River Canyon

1. We took a day trip to Yosemite National Park and even though parts of the park still have quite a bit of snow, when we left the park through the southern El Portal entrance and out Hwy 140 there were millions of poppies blooming along the hills that run alongside the Merced River. It was breathtaking! I have lived in California all my life and I have never seen such a display of poppies…miles and miles of poppies in bloom.

Poppy Orange

2. The California Poppies in our front yard garden decided to start blooming on Monday. I am serious….Monday, right on cue! We took some time to closely observe the way the caps tip to reveal the petals (see the top photo in this entry). We marveled at the light shining through the bright orange petals. We peered into the inside flower parts and remembered Anna Botsford Comstock’s remarks about sleeping inside a poppy. We observed the lacy leaves and decided to do some sketches and rubbings of the leaves in our nature journals. You can view a previous more thorough study of poppies in this blog entry: CA Poppies-Using the Handbook of Nature Study.

“The insects in California take advantage of the closing petals and often get a night’s lodging within them, where they are cozily housed with plenty of pollen for supper and breakfast..”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 564

As part of the advanced study suggestions for this challenge, we are keeping a spring list of wildflowers in our nature journals.

Spring Flower Study notebook page
Advanced Study Notebook Page – More Nature Study Book #3 Spring

Mr. B also completed an additional notebook page for the Hound’s Tongue wildflower that we saw blooming this week on our hiking trail. This is one of the early wildflowers that we see in our local area. It’s distinctive leaves make it an easy flower to identify. The flowers are almost blue which is unusual and beautiful.

Wonderful Lupine
I enjoyed the lupine on the way home from our Yosemite trip. We had a wonderful week of focusing on wildflowers, increasing our desire for spring to really come and stay in our part of the world.

More Nature Study Book 3 Button

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OHC More Nature Study Book 3 – Spring Wildflowers: Poppies and Buttercups

Spring Wildflower Study Button
More Nature Study Book 3
Spring Wildflowers – Poppies and Buttercups

Inside Preparation Work:

  • Read the Handbook of Nature Study pages 516-518 (Lesson 136) on the buttercup. Also, read pages 560-565 in the Handbook about the poppy and the California poppy (Lessons 154 and 155). Use the information to identify and then observe these flowers when you get the opportunity. If you don’t have these flowers in your area, use this challenge to find and view closely any flower in your spring world.
  • View this page for some amazing images of buttercups: Close-Up View of 3 Buttercups. Ebook users: View poppy images on page 29.
  • Use this challenge to introduce the parts of a flower with the proper names. You can find information online HERE. There is a diagram in the Handbook of Nature Study on page 456. You can also refer to Garden Challenge #2. I encourage you to start using the flower part names as you observe flowers.

Outdoor Hour Time:

  • This week you can spend some of your outdoor time looking for spring flowers or flowering weeds. Part of this challenge is to start using the correct flower part names and that can be done with any flower you find.
  • Collect one or two flowers to bring inside to draw in your nature journal.
  • Advanced students: Complete your nature journal in the field. List as many of the flowers you observed as you can (Free printable list notebook page HERE). Use your field guide to identify any flowers you don’t know. Pick one to research later in the week.

Follow-Up Activity:

  • Sketch or watercolor the flower you collected during your outdoor time. Make sure to add a date, flower name, and the location you collected the flower to your entry.
  • Press your flower. You can refer to the Garden Flowers Challenge #3 for more information (which includes my YouTube video with instructions for a making a press: How to Make a Flower Press.
  • Advanced students: If you did not do so in the field, complete a nature journal entry for your flower, complete with flower parts labeled. Use a field guide or the internet to learn more about your flower.
  • Advanced students: Research more information on one of the flowers you observed during your outdoor time.

Additional Links:
Slideshow for poppies (child friendly)

You can see our Spring Wildflower Study by clicking over to my follow-up blog entry:
Spring Wildflowers – CA Poppy Nature Study (and an additional wildflower too).

More Nature Study Book 3 Button

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Garden Update and Nature Journal Tutorial-Window Frame

Nature Journal Picture Frame Button

When we started our front yard remodel in 2010 I had no idea how much joy this space was going to bring to our lives. Each week it is a new palette of colors. The plants are really filling in this spring and new critters are moving in as well. Here are some glimpses into our garden and then a nature journal entry tutorial for you to give a try.

Lavender Yarrow and Butterfly Bush
Butterfly bushes, Yarrow, and Lavender – April 2012

Lavender is the main blooming plant on display right now. The bees love it and so do we!

Forsythia and Lavender
Along with the lavender is the forsythia, which contrasts so well with the lavender.

CA Poppies - Ready to Bloom
The poppies are just beginning to show signs of flower buds and they are just waiting to tip their “hats” and show their blazing orange colors.

Critter Hideaway Under Our Front Rocks

This is something new this week….a critter is making a home under my big rock! They have pulled the landscape material back and exposed a little space to hide in right there alongside my front path. I wonder who it is?

Yard Art with Lavender Yarrow and Butterfly bush

I still really enjoy watching our butterfly “fly” around in the breeze. It adds a little bit of whimsy to our front yard.

Nature Journal Tutorial- Window Frame

This project may at first appear to be a little complicated but I encourage you to give it a try. The finished project is so fun to look at and remember your nature time.

Nature Journal
Watercolor pencils and brush

Window Frame Beginning Step
Begin by sketching a frame that includes both pages in your nature journal.

Window Frame Pencil Sketch
Sketch your subject. I chose this butterfly bush sample to sketch. Just for fun I made it extend outside the frame.

Window Frame Journal Complete
Now you can add water to your sketch, a title, and a little detail sketch if you wish. Add some fun lettering along the one side…add a date (which I did after taking this photo) and you are finished.

I would love to see your version of this nature journal idea. Send them to You can find more of my Nature Journal Ideas on Squidoo. I also wrote this entry that might help you get started: 3 Tips for Nature Journals When You Think You Can’t Sketch.

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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Moss and Poppies: Living in the Cracks

I love carrying my little point and shoot camera with me when I walk. If something grabs my attention, I can seize the opportunity to capture the moment.

This morning the sun was shining, although the air was crisp. I was the only one out and about the neighborhood. I love that.

We live near a school and a few summers ago they built a sidewalk to nowhere. There really is no rhyme or reason to where it starts and ends. As puzzling as this sidewalk is, it allows me to walk with Kona any time I want without worrying that my shoes will get muddy. We take the brisk walk on the cement down the street to where the sidewalk dead-ends and then we turn around and come back. I have decided they built this sidewalk for me since I rarely see anyone walking on it at any time of the day.

Sidewalk to Nowhere and oaks
Here is the view at our turn around spot. There is a busy road here but the view is pretty with mostly oaks but also a nice mix of conifers.

Creek and Blackberries and thistles
The creek that runs here seasonally is covered in blackberries. I snapped this photo and then realized that there are thistles down here as well! I have my own little thistle patch within walking distance of my front door. You know I will be following their progress throughout the winter and then into spring.

We arrived back at the house in a much better mood than we started out…funny how that always happens no matter how short the walk. I took Kona off the leash and she did what she loves to do….run up to the deck to sit in the sun. I actually took a minute to notice that we have a welcome addition to the remodeled frontyard.

Moss Between the Pavers
We didn’t plan for this to happen but it is a great touch to our new paver walkway. Moss is growing in the cracks. I have always wanted a walkway with moss between the bricks. Thanks moss for inviting yourself!

Poppies in the Cracks
Not only moss but on closer inspection I noticed that there are California poppies emerging from between the cracks as well. I am going to leave them and see what happens as the winter progresses. We planted a scatter garden last fall and these must be volunteers from that batch.

Moss and Sage on My Rock
One last image for you: Here is one of the decorative rocks in our front garden with a bit of moss growing. But, isn’t it pretty with the sage blossoms that have fallen there…love the mix of color. My favorite combination of purple and green.

Another terrific day to be outside enjoying all the bounteous gifts to be seen. Now to make a cup of something warm to heat up these cold hands. Tea or coffee?

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California Poppies – Using the Handbook of Nature Study and a Nature Journal Tutorial

CA Poppies - bloom

The California poppies are late this year but right on time for our May Outdoor Hour Challenge for wildflowers. (See the May Newsletter for all the May topics to choose from.) We have both wild and cultivated poppies in our yard, hoping that the ones we planted with seed will self-seed for next year’s crop.

As the state flower of California, you could expect that there would be lots to see in the spring and this year there are many.

California Popppies

There is a section of our walking trail that has a large garden of poppies in various stages of development. One of the interesting things that we have noticed about poppies are the way the petals unfold when it is ready to bloom. The “cap” comes off and reveals the flower underneath. After the flower blooms the petals fall and a pod is revealed that looks sort of like a bean pod. Here is look at it close up.

CA Poppies - pod

We took the idea from Lesson 155 in the Handbook of Nature Study (#7) and looked closer at the pod. We cut the seed pod open lengthwise to examine the seeds with a lens. We observed the ribs and how the seeds were attached inside.

CA Poppy pod dissection

Here is a close-up through the magnifying lens of the seeds inside the pod….amazing! All of us were fascinated with the way the seeds are in the pod like you see in a pea pod. We are going to continue watching the pods as they dry up to see exactly when they become black because we know the seeds we planted were not green but black.

CA Poppy - pod dissection

Here is Mr. B’s sketch of the dissected poppy pod.

CA Poppies Notebook Pages
Mr. B and I worked on notebook pages for our nature journals using the California Poppy pages from I highly recommend the Wildflower, Weeds, and Garden Flowers set because it has every flower listed in the Handbook of Nature Study…perfect companion to your nature study. If you own the Treasury Membership it is included so take a look for it in your files.

Fill In The Circle Tutorial

Many of you asked to have me give you more step-by-step tutorials on how I put my nature journal pages together. Here is one for the Fill In The Circle idea that is found in the May Newsletter. (All supplies are shown in the Amazon widget at the bottom of this blog entry – you may need to click over to the blog to see them.)

CA Poppies - Nature Journal 1

I started off with a large pencil circle for my poppy sketch. I also used pencil lines for the poem stanza that I wanted to include in this journal entry. I don’t always draw lines so it is up to you whether you need them or not.

CA Poppies Nature Journal 2

I added watercolor pencil to the poppy and then made a larger box with pen around the two pages I am working on. I like the “window frame” look to tie two pages together. I copied the poem onto the page using a black pen. I used Prang Semi-Moist watercolors to paint the yellow background….sort of a wash technique using just a little color. I decided I wanted some funky bubble letters so I added those next.

CA Poppy - Nature Journal 3

I printed one poppy photo to include on the left page and used watercolors to paint the bubble letters. I added the date to the bottom corner. You can use this idea with any topic you want to include in your nature journal. I would love to see your results so post them in your entry and then submit it to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival.

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Spring Robin and Wildflower Hikes – Robin Nature Study

We took a walk to look for birds as part of the Spring Bird Observation Challenge from last week. It had been raining earlier in the day but we took off for our hike as soon as the clouds parted a little. The walking trail had lots of earthworms wiggling across which is why we saw A LOT of robins. The robins were singing and then hopping along side the trail as we hiked.

American Robin in a Pine

I think I was too distracted to capture a good photo but you can see him up there on the branch of the pine.

Robin nature journal

He did make it into our nature journals though….big fat red belly and all. There is lots of information in the Handbook of Nature Study for the robin. I encourage you to use this information as the basis of a great spring study of birds. There is an official Outdoor Hour Challenge for robins: Red Birds.

Here is an additional printable brochure on American Robins that is excellent: American Robins.

Yellow Globe Lily

We were lucky to catch this wildflower blooming…

Yellow Star Tulip

Yellow star tulip.

Scotch Broom along Trail

Part of the trail is lined with Scotch broom….yellow boughs make a beautiful setting. I know it is considered a “noxious” weed and invasive but I will enjoy it as I walk the trail this spring.

4 23 11 Red Shack wildflowers Sierra Pea

On another section of the trail the Sierra peas are in bloom giving the grass dots of purple and pink.

4 19 11 yard and walking trail CA Poppies

The California poppies are really blooming now and this section of the trail full of them.I am working on a new blog entry featuring poppies that I will post soon.

4 19 11 yard and walking trail Blue Eyed Grass

We recognized this flower from last year…Blue eyed grass which isn’t a grass at all but it is in the iris family.

Tweet and See button

Here is our list for April:

  1. Canada goose -on the move, although we have some that stay year-round in a marshy area at the edge of town
  2. Mourning doves (always a pair)
  3. Anna’s hummingbirds
  4. White-crowned sparrows
  5. White-breasted nuthatch
  6. Acorn woodpecker
  7. California towhee
  8. House sparrows
  9. Brewer’s blackbirds
  10. American crow
  11. Turkey vultures
  12. Red-wing blackbirds
  13. Western scrub jays
  14. Common ravens
  15. Cedar waxwings (saw these yesterday) – heard their high pitch whistle
  16. Oak titmouse
  17. American robins -counted 47 one day
  18. California quail – flock of them
  19. Yellow billed magpie – on a day trip, distinctive sound
  20. Blue heron – on another day trip
  21. Steller’s jays
  22. Cooper’s hawk – we hear this sound a lot in our yard (nest call/alarm call)
  23. Red-tail hawk
  24. Rock pigeons

I think the most interesting thing about our list is the absence of some of our “regular” feeder birds. It appears that some of them have moved on: House finches, Lesser goldfinches, Spotted towhees, Dark eyed juncos.