Landscaping the New House, Day 1

The 'Before' Garden

As I have mentioned previously, I moved last summer.  Part of my retirement planning included a smaller place that would be easier to take care of.  I found this townhouse in a planned community which was almost perfect for my needs.

I say almost perfect, because for an avid gardener, the plantings around this house were a bit of a disaster.  For starters, a small street-side bed (above) included a pair of overgrown rhododendrons that completely blocked the window.  My office is in that room, and it was frustrating to work at the computer and not be able to see out.  I don't know much about the history of the house or who lived here before.  I think it was vacant for a while before I moved in.  It may also have been a rental for a time.

The entry garden was in very sad shape.  A potentilla shrub (left) had died before I moved in.  They require regular watering, but it got none during last summer's drought.  On the right is a California Lilac, probab…

Confused Rhododendron?

This is a photo I took this morning of a rhododendron blooming in the cul-de-sac where I live.  It is the last day of January.  Several plants are doing this around the complex.  Prime rhododendron season is April to July.  There are a couple of reasons to see blooming at atypical times:
There are early/winter blooming rhododendron varieties such as 'Christmas Cheer' or 'PJM'They sometimes get mixed signals from weather or daylight which stimulate blooming The weather here this winter has been fairly typical although we have gotten more rain than usual.  Early this month, we had a cold snap where the temperature dropped to 27° F, -3° C.  Since then, the temps have remained above freezing and as high as 58° F, 14° C.  Our typical overcast has been broken up by several days with bright sunshine.
We had a few rhododendrons that pushed out two or three blooms early last fall.  That was most likely due to confused plants getting the wrong signals.  I have seen this in the p…

First Day Hike 2018: Deception Pass State Park

Lucky number seven describes this year's First Day Hike at Deception Pass State Park.  I have attended all seven, and once again, we were treated to a perfect rain-free New Year's Day.  This is one of the benefits of an Olympic Rain Shadow location.  Yesterday, however, all of western Washington had great weather.  At 10:00 am, we gathered in the meeting room at the West Beach food service building to fuel up with coffee, bagels and pastries provided by the Deception Pass Park Foundation.

Although the skies were clear, it was a chilly morning.  With the temperature at 27° F/-3° C, Cranberry Lake was covered with a skim of ice.  The picnic area and surrounding foliage were decorated with frost.

When we started the hike, the West Beach resident pair of Bald Eagles were in their usual spot overseeing the event.  Left:  Both could be seen in back-lit silhouette.  Right:  From a different angle, it's easier to tell they are Bald Eagles.  Its mate is hidden to the right behind …

Return to Kukutali

Between getting one house organized to live in and another one sold, I have not had much time for hiking.  This week, after a rainy weekend, I decided it was time to get out and get a look at early fall in the North Sound.  I headed over to Kiket Island in the Kukutali Preserve.  The Deception Pass State Park Newsletter (.pdf) indicated some new amenities were being installed, and I wanted to check them out.

Off Kiket Island, there is a swim float out in Similk Bay, about 100 meters away.  It can be seen from the causeway leading to the island.  It is usually populated with Cormorants and gulls, but something was different this time.  Zooming out to 400 mm, I spotted this pair.  They were at least twice the size of our little Harbor Seals.  I believe these are either young Steller or California Sea Lions, more likely the latter.  From this distance, I'm not sure it is possible to distinguish which species they are.  Cormorants can be seen swimming at the right edge of the photo, …

How I Spent the Solar Eclipse of 2017

Here in northwest Washington State, Monday's solar eclipse would reach 91% of totality at 10:21 a.m.  For the event, I picked a spot at Hoypus Point in Deception Pass State Park to experience the eclipse, and take some pictures.  Looking west, this is a photo of the Deception Pass bridge taken at the moment of totality.  I expected it to be darker, but the light had decidedly taken on "golden hour" tones.

At the same time, these are the light patterns that appeared on the road behind me.  The dappled sunlight passing through the trees was now projecting images of the eclipse on the pavement of Cornet Bay Road.  This effect is called camera obscura or pinhole image.  In this case, the leaves of trees were only allowing pinhole beams of light to pass through the canopy.  I wasn't expecting this at all.  For me, it made the event all the more special, as surprises often do.

I arrived at the State Park early to find Deception Pass completely fogged in.  I wondered if th…