Wednesday, April 28, 2010

How About A Snowball Fight?

Figuratively speaking, that is.  I'm referring to the beautiful Chinese Snowball Viburnum (Viburnum macrocephalum), which is a very interesting semi-evergreen shrub.  In my wanderings around this spring, I only saw a few.  What's fascinating about these beauties is how the blossoms start out chartreuse and then turn pure white. 

This one is in the yard of one of my friends. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to see if after the blossoms turned white.  The chartreuse color is very unusual, don't you think?  I really love it!

Going Bananas!

Banana Magnolia, aka Magnolia figo, Michelia figo, Magnolia fuscata

This unbelievably fragrant shrub smells just like fresh bananas!  I recall one of these in my grandmother's front yard when I was a child.  It wasn't until I was house-hunting a few years ago that I came across these in the yard of one of the houses I visited.  I didn't buy that house, but I bought two of these great shrubs to go right next to my front porch.

I moved in the last week of April, so they had already finished blooming. But I anticipated the following spring with great expectancy.  In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the entire gulf coast. It also did something else: it caused the banana magnolias to bloom out of season.  Now they are supposedly spring-blooming only, but mine bloom twice a year without fail, although the heavier blooms are in the spring. 

First buds, the last week of March this year.  Aren't they cute?

Just look at those fuzzy little things! 

The blossom out of its 'peel,' ready to open.  Oh by, the way, those little shrubs are now as tall as the roof of my house.  In five years, they have tripled their size.

The banana fragrance is so spectacular that it's hard to describe, except that it smells like a 'sweet' banana. For about three weeks each spring (and a week in the fall) I relish the idea of sitting on my front porch with a good book and a nice drink of coffee or lemonade (depending on the weather), waiting for a breeze to pick up the delightful fragrance and send it my way.

It's easy to see why it's called 'banana' magnolia. The blossoms look just like miniature magnolias.

Do Drop In at the Dew Drop Inn!

This little restaurant in mid-town Mobile just happens to be Mobile's oldest.  Now in its third location (since the 1950's), it's been around since 1924. That should tell you something about its popularity.

Its specialty is the famous Dew Drop hot dog.  Served with chili, sauerkraut, mustard, ketchup, and pickles, its taste is unique.

If you prefer something simpler, you can order an 'upside-down' dog, with the chili next to the bun and the dog on top.

The Dew Drop's cheeseburgers are credited with being the inspiration for Jimmy Buffett's song, Cheeseburger in Paradise. (Yes, Jimmy Buffett was born and raised in Mobile.)

What's better than a side of fries? Onion rings, of course.  They are the best I've ever tasted!

This restaurant has special meaning for me.  You see, my father worked there and later became owner for several years prior to his retirement.  I've grown up on Dew Drop food. And while I love the famous hot dog, my absolute favorite thing to order is their catfish, along with sides of cole slaw and macaroni and cheese. They even throw in some fries and onion rings.

The Dew Drop is always crowded, especially on Saturdays (closed Sunday). The decor hasn't changed since the 1960's when my father owned it. Very 'stylish' tangerine formica table-tops, with booths around the walls and up the middle of the floor.  It's a fun place to eat, for sure.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The story of To Kill a Mockingbird

Since Harper Lee wrote only one novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, which won a Pulitzer Price, what can one add to this very interesting story?  What fascinates me is that the setting and some of the characters in the novel were drawn from real life.  The main character is Atticus Finch, the attorney who defended a black man on trial for the rape of a white woman.
Besides the fact that Harper's father was a former attorney, her mother's maiden name was Finch.  Since the narrator of the story is Scout, Finch's daughter, one can only conclude that Harper herself may have been telling the tale.  It's well known that one of the characters in the book, Dill Harris, was based on Harper's childhood friend, Truman Capote.

Harper Lee collaborated with Truman Capote on his best seller, In Cold Blood,  while he was working on an article about a murder in Kansas of four members of one family.  She accompanied Capote to Kansas to conduct interviews and assist with research for the story.

An incident in the town of Scottsboro in the 1930's involved the trial of nine black men accused of raping two white women, may have provided the seed of inspiration for the novel.  Race relations in the South were a very sensitive subject and black on white crime, especially male - female crime, was explosive.

How do you top To Kill A Mockingbird? Apparently you don't. Ms. Lee never wrote another book. She left New York and returned to Monroeville, Alabama, where she continues to live a life of quiet solitude.

The title has always intrigued me--Atticus was quoted in the book as telling his children that it was 'a sin to kiil a mockingbird,' after giving air rifles to them as a Christmas present. Their neighbor, Miss Maudie Atkinson, told them that mockingbirds don't do anything but provide beautiful music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up gardens and otherwise cause problems; they just sing for our pleasure.

In 2007 Harper Lee made an appearance at the annual induction of honorees into the Alabama Hall of Fame, of which she is a member. When asked if she'd like to say a few words, her comment was "Well it's better to be silent than to be a fool."

Photo: msnbc

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Mobile, The Azalea City

Last Sunday I took some pictures of the beautiful azaleas here in Mobile.  This has truly been one of the most beautiful azalea seasons I can remember in many years.  Take a look....

Nothing Could Be Finer Than To See The Carolina....

Jessamine, in the morning!!!  Also called Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens), it provides greenery year-round, especially for areas that call for a 'climber.'  My jasmine started off very small, on either side of my front gate, and quickly found a perfect home on top of my front fence.  Last summer we gave it a haircut, which only served to increase its growth.

The yellow, tubular flowers produce a distinct, almost pungent, fragrance.  It's not what I would call sweet at all. But I like it, because it's unique.  The bees definitely find it attractive.

Before we cut it back last year, it had completelly covered the front gate.  Now it respectfully stays on either side of the gate, and with a little encouragement from me, it will behave itself.

This year the carolina jasmine and bridal wreath bloom seasons overlapped a few days.

The bees were giddy to have found such a delicious nectar so early in the season. My jasmine was blooming by early March!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Here Comes the Bridal Wreath!

My daughter might think I'm a little obsessed with bridal wreath. She's probably right.  At last count I have around fifteen bushes in my yard, both front and back.  They are just so graceful, elegant, and reminiscent of gardens of long ago.   I recall my grandmother having these lovely shrubs in her yard.

The first buds have formed and I'm watching and waiting for the show to start.
Technically, bridal wreath is officially called Spirea prunifolia, and who knew? It's a member of the Rose family (Rosacaea).  And surprise, surprise, it hails from China, Korea and Taiwan.  And we thought we just got toys, clothes, and other durable goods from the far east!

I have to stop and laugh out loud at some of these pictures, because if any of my neighbors happened to be looking out their windows they surely would wonder what I was doing by taking pictures of plants in my yard!

Now things are really beginning to pop!

I've never pruned my bridal wreath, but apparently if you decide to it should be done right after blooming. To me, the haphazard look of the shrub makes it so beautiful and unique. No two look exactly alike.

The snow white blooms against the dark green foliage is striking in its contrast. This year they have been glorious and long-blooming. I reallly think that the severe cold weather we had in January resulted in one of the most bountiful spring bloom seasons in many years!

I've taken pictures at various times of the day, because the sunlight and shadows capture the beauty of these shrubs in different ways, depending upon the hour.

At full bloom! What could be more beautiful?

Sometimes I wish I lived across the street from myself so I could see what my neighbor sees!The back yard.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Look Mom, No Thorns!!

I'm the first to admit that I don't know much about roses. But I know this---one rose that should be in everyone's garden is the Lady Banks.  I was lucky enough to 'inherit' one when I bought my house---for the last five years it has given such joy every spring.  This year it has been simply spectacular.

About a month ago I noticed the buds.  There were bud clusters all along the canes. 

The Lady Banks is a species rose, not a hybrid. And like so many of the plants we have all come to love, it originated in China.

Buds taking shape!

It is named after the wife of Sir Joseph Banks, who was the head of the Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britain.

Making progress!!!!

Besides the fact that the Lady Banks has no thorns, it also requires little or no attention! Considered very disease-resistant, it's very rare to see either blackspot or powdery mildew.

Lady Banks (Rosa banksiae normalis) has been in cultivation since 1796! Isn't that amazing!   My rose, the double-yellow, was discovered in 1824.  It's hard to imagine that centuries have gone by since this beauty was cultivated.

Technicallly, it's called Rosa banksiae lutescens.

If you like a fragrant rose, then look elsewhere.  The yellow Lady Banks has minimal fragrance; there is a white-flowered form with more fragrance, although I have not seen one.

Lady Banks only blooms once a year, in the spring.  So any pruning should be done after blooming is finished. 

Lady Banks basically takes care of itself.  The joy it brings, even if once a year, is well worth the wait!

The largest Lady Banks rose is in Tombstone, Arizona. A white rose, it covers more than 8,000 square feet. And the Lady Banks has a long life-span. The one in Tombstone was planted in 1855!

Front Yard is Finished!!!

Last weekend my son-in-law and daughter showed up with some sod to put down where my front flower bed had been last year.  As you can see the progress was flawless and the finished product is just perfect for me!

Putting down the top soil.

Here comes the sod!

All of the sod is down! I turn on the sprinklers every morning to make sure the grass roots, and it's doing beautifully!

A couple of red adirondack chairs, and I'm ready to relax in the font yard!