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Prickles, Patterns, and Vines in the Garden

This week I had fun gathering lots of interesting images from the garden to share with you. I have been trying to work my way through the Summer Nature Photo Challenge and one of the topics is “something prickly”. The cactus on the left I call Hairy and he lives on my deck…I inherited him from a relative and we think he is over thirty years old. The image on the right is one I actually took at Home Depot as I browsed in the nursery. I love the patterns of the prickles on this cactus!

I have a wide variety of sunflowers this year and they each have their own unique charm…ruffles, bendy petals, variations in color and leaf size…so much to enjoy about our sunflowers.

This is the time of year that I take a morning walk with my cup of coffee, exploring for new things in the garden. As you slow to really enjoy each flower, the patterns of color, petals, and seeds make an impression. Learning to share these things with your children and watching them grow in appreciation is something we all can do and it is easy if you have a cutting flower garden. Let your children cut a single flower, bring it inside and find a vase for it, and then set it on your kitchen table for closer observation and enjoyment.

Climbing vines are a big part of my summer garden. After studying vines with the Outdoor Hour Challenge, I have learned to notice how the vines twine and which direction they twine around the stakes. Each plant is uniform in its twisting direction. I also have a passion flower vine and it doesn’t twine but it uses tendrils to grab onto the stakes.

One last image for you to see….this one is my thistle plant that is blooming and is super pokey! The birds (finches) love the seeds from this plant and I hated to pull it out but I had to. My husband does not always share my love of all things that grow in the yard. He is right that it had already spread enough seed to ensure that there will be more next year without letting the whole area get filled in with thistles. I am a reasonable person so we pulled it all up.

I encourage you all to take a look with fresh eyes at your yard or neighborhood…find some prickles, patterns, and vines to point out to your children. Let them make some oral observations and perhaps gather a pretty flower or two for you kitchen table.

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Garden Flowers – Aster Nature Study

Monarch on the Butterfly Bush
I don’t know about you but ever since we really learned about Fibonacci numbers in nature we have been on the lookout for the patterns and swirls. They seem to be everywhere once your eyes learn to focus on this interesting design in creation. The More Nature Study Book #4 Summer Sizzle challenge for garden flowers shares lots of ideas for getting to know about the Fibonacci sequence and the aster family.

Our Garden Flowers Study using the Handbook of Nature Study led us to discover some different kinds of asters that we have right in our own yard. The clue is the shape and arrangement of the flower petals.

White Daisies
The challenge was actually to study White daisies, Black-eyed Susans, and Asters. We went beyond and tried to find all the flowers in the aster family that we have in our garden. We found quite a few.

There are the dahlias. This surprised me that it was in the aster family. My son grows dahlias in his garden box for me and this year they are all shades of pink. I would like to add a few more colors next year.

Dahlia in a Container
We do have dahlias growing in pots on the back deck. We planted these from seeds that we purchased from Rene’s Garden. The package calls them Watercolor Silksand they live up to their name.

Light Orange Dahlia from the container garden

I bring them in and let them fully open up inside on the kitchen table.

We have lots of Echinacea in our cutting garden. We looked this flower up and it is in the aster family! Can you count the petals?

Bee Balm
We were not sure about the Bee Balm so we looked it up on Wikipedia…no, it is not in the aster family. Knowing what makes an aster an aster, we should have known better. Sometimes it adds to the learning experience to NOT find what you are looking for because it makes you stop and take note of the different attributes of a flower like petal arrangement and the way the flower grows.

The nasturtium is also not a member of the aster family. I would love to have a whole bed of nasturtiums. I settled for four scrawny plants this year. There is a study in the Handbook of Nature Study for the nasturtium and I think our family will be following up this aster study with that one in the near future…just for fun and to record this flower in our nature journals.

Other Miscellaneous Garden Adventures from the Past Month

Cabbage White butterfly
We have lots of Cabbage White butterflies in our garden everyday. I really love this link: Cabbage White. I learned so much by taking the time to look up this butterfly even though it was technically garden flower week. I love it when nature study subjects come to us and we slow down enough to learn a few facts. This is what makes our nature study so rich and satisfying. I think it is such a joy to know about the common everyday things in my garden. There is so much to learn.

Hot Cocoa Rose - Shores Acres

We visited a beautiful rose garden when we were on our Oregon trip last month. Shores Acres has a garden that is so magical that you don’t know where to look and you are afraid you are going to miss something. The rose above is my absolute new favorite…it is called Hot Cocoa. It had a slight chocolate fragrance and the color was reminiscent of cocoa.

Barb at Shores Acres
A rare sighting of me on the blog but I want you to know how much I enjoyed this rose garden. My son obliged me by taking a few photos of me as we wandered around and tried to find our favorites.

Shores Acres Rose Garden 1

My other son decided that the bench was just too inviting and he rested awhile in the rose garden…what a great way to spend a few minutes while you wait for your mom who decided she wanted to read very sign.

OHC Blog Carnival
So have you completed your garden flower study for the summer yet using the Handbook of Nature Study? I would love to see your garden entries in the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival…you have until the end of the month to post your entry and send in your links.

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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Garden Thoughts and Starting a New School Year

This weekend I kept seeing the 5 and 8 patterns in flower petals in my garden. I would be watering a garden box and there it would be…5 or 8. I know it is because I am hypersensitive after refreshing my memory about Fibonacci last week during our corn study.

Pink Cosmos

Zucchini blossom with its bold orange color.

I also had a renewed appreciation for the patterns of growth in flowers. The beauty of the way the seeds are arranged fascinates me.

My mammoth sunflower is turning itself inside out. The birds are loving it!

We start a new school year today and I will still be in my garden in the afternoon but it will not be the long days outside like I have been. Soon the season will change and it will be autumn. Autumn is not my favorite season but it does have its delights. Already I can feel the days getting shorter and spending time outdoors will bring to our attention other changes as well.

For now, we will enjoy the harvesting of our vegetables and the cycle of planting a new fall/winter garden. I will be saving some seeds for next year and I already have plans for a new section of garden to be completed by next spring. One of my summer reading projects was this book: The Backyard Homestead. I was inspired to try a few new things in our smallish backyard. I will keep you posted as we progress in a few small projects.

The Outdoor Hour Challenges for crop plants will continue for a few more weeks and then I am not sure what direction we will take. My boys are asking for another pond study so maybe we will take the Outdoor Hour Challenges in that direction as we head into autumn.


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Corn Study, Fibonacci, and Our Garden: Our Family Outdoor Hour

We started off our study by reading the pages in the Handbook of Nature Study about corn. There were some great details in there about corn and how it grows and the purpose of each part of the ear of corn.

We followed the outline of the questions on page 603 to go a little more in depth with the ears of corn that we had purchased for this study. We ate the corn after our study and my son described the taste as “sweet and crunchy”.

Here is a little excerpt from my son’s journal page:
“The rows are more orderly near the top and become an irregular mess near the bottom. This is partly due to the lack of space but also because the slight curve of some pushes others over and they push the next and so on. The end has little definable shape but is long in some parts and stops short in other rows. ”

Closely examining the ear of corn was really quite amazing, proving once again how taking a few concentrated minutes to study something commonplace produces a whole new appreciation for its beauty and design. We started wondering if corn follows the idea of a Fibonacci number or sequence and we did a little research.

We are constantly amazed at the design that our loving Creator has put before us if we only take the time to really see and appreciate.

Okay, back to our study. We germinated some corn kernels as part of our weekly nature study and we were all surprised that in a matter of days we had real corn plants growing. I unzipped the bag to allow the stems to poke out and they have continued to grow. The photo above is after five days of germination. I highly recommend this easy experiment as a way to see the process of growth. (The instructions are in the original challenge.)

We also planted some corn in our garden at the beginning of the crop plant challenges a few weeks ago. They are starting to get taller each day. I think we planted too many in our square foot…we shall see.

While we were out in the garden we noticed that our winter squash is finally forming.

We have two plants with about three squashes each so that will be a good crop for a first try.

Another new plant in our flower garden is the gladiola.

I planted shades of purple and they are gorgeous.

The glads are starting and the hydrangeas are fading. They are still very pretty even if their color is not as vivid. I am going to cut a bunch and keep them for dried flower arrangements.
Crop Plants Notebook Pages – Companion to the Crop Plants Challenges

Crop Plants Notebook Page Cover Button
Custom made notebook pages for each crop plant challenge. I have designed simple to use pages that will complement each challenge and will be an easy way to start a nature journal. Each of the eight notebook pages is in full color, but they are just as great in black and white. These notebook pages can be purchased for $2.50. View a  SAMPLE