Wednesday, June 28, 2017

How to Prune Hydrangeas

how to prune hydrangeas

This spring I was visiting a friend and she wanted me to look at her hydrangeas to see why they hadn't bloom the year before and to see if I thought they would bloom this year. She took me to where I expected to see a hydrangea bush and I said "Where is it?"

"There." She said pointing to the ground.

I looked down to see a mound of new growth a few inches high with six or seven dead sticks sticking up. I told her that I hated to tell her but it probably wouldn't bloom this summer either.  I can't tell you how many times I hear this story about hydrangeas and crepe myrtles! Especially when husbands are in fall clean up mode.

Garden clean up does not mean hacking everything down. It means doing what the plant needs to perform its best the following year.


Here is how to prune hydrangeas.

First, you want to know if your hydrangea blooms on old growth or new growth. Ninety percent of home owners have the old fashioned kind that bloom on old growth. You can tell by following a blossom down and checking to see if the stem becomes dark and woody (old growth) or if it is green all the way down (new growth). If you have the new growth variety you can prune any time

pruning hydrangeas

It's important to remember that hydrangeas don't need pruning. But because of their size at maturity, unless you have a large naturalized woodland garden, you are going to want to prune to keep them from overtaking your house. If you don't have much room there are smaller varieties available. When making a plant purchase be sure to see what the size will be at maturity.

how to prune hydrangeas

Prune when the majority of blossoms fade. When I pruned mine a couple of weeks ago I noticed that in the mid south it seems to coincide with the crepe myrtles starting to blossom.

Prune after after a soaking rain if you can. I lucked out this year and we just happened to have a day of rain the day before I cut mine back. This is going to help the plant rejuvenate and recover before fall. In the south this can be wishful thinking in summer but its optimal. You can always water, of course.

Prune about 1/3 back. This is a handy guide but if you need to do a bit more to get it under control it's not a problem.

pruned hydrangea

Make cuts just above opposite pairs of leaves.  

pruning hydrangeas

 Collect your pruned blossoms to dry if you want. This is also an excellent opportunity to try propagating more plants. I'll cover this in detail at a later date but with something like a hydrangea take several cuttings, stick them in the ground in a shady spot, make sure they get watered during the heat of summer and then forget about them until spring.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Cruising the Inside Passage: White Pass Yukon Route Train Ride

alaska travel

Our last excursion in Alaska was a train ride from Skagway to the White Pass Summit. That first photo up there is my favorite from this ride. It doesn't even look real, does it? Actually I was so caught up in the moment I don't think I grasp that it does actually look a little treacherous.

train to white pass summit

The train literally leaves right from the boat dock and and brings you back to the same spot roughly three and a half hours later. It was the most convenient thing ever and so much fun. After boarding and securing our seats the train left and just a mile or so up the tracks they announced that we could go out to the platform and stand.

white pass summit yukon route

 I had no idea that would even be an option!

caution sign on train

I immediately jumped up and headed for the platform at the rear of our car to secure a good spot for our little foursome. I just knew there would be a mad rush and so I wanted to stake out our territory. I'm so glad I did, otherwise I'd never have gotten this amazing video!

I one followed me. I looked inside the car and everyone was just sitting in their seats. On the platform of the adjoining car an Australian gentlemen with an enviable camera said "I thought I'd be fighting people off over here. There's people asleep in there! I mean, you paid your money didn't you? Might as well get the most out of it, I say!"

alaska train

 Eventually a woman and her husband joined me and while she leaned over the edge with me to look at the view he stood in the middle of the platform and said "I wish you wouldn't do that."

alaska train

I like to call myself a cautious adventurer. I don't like danger, not really. So though a few of these pics look a little scary, I promise I was perfectly safe the whole time. Even if I was leaning over a gate, just a little, to get the video and some of the pictures.

white pass yukon rail

 Notice how lush and green everything is at the beginning of the ride.

cruising the inside passage excursion

 As the train began to ascend the mountain I caught this glimpse of another train coming up where we had just been. The ascent wasn't that noticeable so this sight surprised me.

white pass yukon rail

 Now the trade off for being outside the car was that I completely missed all the interesting history of the railroad, gold rush, and sketchy characters who opened up this area. But, hey, that's what the internet is for. For history of this railroad as well as information about riding it, check out

So many horses died on this route it was known as "Dead Horse Trail." You don't put that on a tourist brochure so it's just called White Pass. Probably best. 

white pass trail

By the time we reached the area near the Canadian border it was cold and the snow was still fairly deep along the tracks. I'm pretty sure I'd have stayed home in the lower 48 and opened up a dress shop or something. Trudging around up here on the way to the Klondike to look for gold doesn't seem like a good idea to me at all. See what I mean? Cautious adventurer. Plus, I really like to be warm and oh, I don't know...alive.

white pass yukon rail

At the summit the landscape looked moonlike.

white pass summit alaska

Hello, there, Canada!

white pass summit alaska

It might have been spring in Skagway but at the summit it was still winter.


Seriously, no amount of gold.

yukon rail

So along this part I had to be careful not to stick my neck out too far, for obvious reasons. See that rock? Building this railroad was a blast. Literally. Through 16 feet of rock in many places and that isn't even talking about tunnels through mountains.

yukon rail

The Food Maven joined me even thought she is scared of heights, but you'd never know it! Look how relaxed she looks!

Now for my favorite photographs of the day. I saved the best for last. Of course the very best one of all is that one at the top of this post.

white pass yukon route

train in alaska

white pass yukon route

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Cruising the Inside Passage: The Best Excursion We've Ever Taken

juneau glacier

The title of this post is a pretty bold statement because we've been cave tubing in Belize, spent a day at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland, and done a vodka tasting in Russia. Which I only vaguely remember. 

Maybe that's why I couldn't find a post about it. 

Sometimes we book our adventures through the ship and other times we find them on our own. After this trip however, I have to say my new goal in life is to do a helicopter ride on every vacation.


 I'm going to have to sell a lot of honey to make that happen, because it was among the pricier things we've opted for. The only other thing that came close was the Beaches at Normandy for around the same price but that was a 12 hour excursion that included lunch in an ancient chateau. This excursion lasted one hour. I know. I'm the same person who buys most of my clothes at thrift stores. Vacation girl has got a totally skewed sense of money.
alaska helicopter tours

    Okay, let me back up. When you sign up online to purchase this frozen joy ride there is a little box on the form for your weight. Are you with me, ladies? Since I'm not in the habit of regularly weighing myself a made a rough estimate. Ahem. Rough being the operative word there. When we arrived at the airport to check in for our tour, the first thing they had us do was to step on a scale.

On vacation.

helicopter tour

Let's face it those are two things that should never be put together in a sentence or anywhere else. I peeked around to see the number. Let's just say after a few days on a cruise ship there was a slight discrepancy between my guess and the reality. Next I sat down and got some nifty boots that would be useful for trekking around on ice and it was outside to be lined up according to weight and balance. Finally our chopper- I was into it, okay?- returned and we got loaded and strapped in.

helicopter excursion inside passage

The views on the way to the glacier were amazing!

coastal helicopters

There it is! There are several glaciers in the Juneau Ice Field. This one is called Herbert.

herbert glacier

Looking for a place to land...

juneau ice field

Look at my fancy boots. They make sense now.

shore excursion inside  passage

So I was paying for this trip which is why he looks so relieved. He's really excitied, I promise. 

walking on glacier

This whole thing was like being on another planet. First, it was absolutely silent. Like nothing I've ever experienced before.

juneau excursion

You think it's just going to be all white, but there was this blue in little melty spots that was other-worldly.

juneau shore excursion

This is basically his Father's Day, Birthday, and Christmas all rolled into one.

juneau shore excursion

Let's talk crevasses. Remember that I told you I was reading a book about some Stampeders who came up here for the gold rush back in the day? Well on three separate occasions the author witnessed fellow travelers disappearing ahead of him. Men, sleds, dogs, supplies--gone. They had fallen into creavasses hundreds of feet deep never to be heard or seen again. This girl was being super careful about where she stepped. 

juneau alaska

The glacier itself was devoid of life but there was this one little fir twig that had been blown there by the wind.

glacier ice

My soul mate and I were having the time of our lives out there. We love any excuse for hats of all kinds and ginormous sunglasses. I have to confess I bought these aviator style ones for this trip just because of this helicopter ride. Oh come on, that's what Target is FOR!

coastal helicopter excursion

Being cold makes us super silly. Or maybe that's just being together. Check out this video of a little gushing river of glacial water disappearing into a crevasse. I really regret not reaching down to get a drink from it.

glacial stream

I'm going to be dreaming of this on those hundred degree days when I'm wearing my bee suit and doing hive checks.

Do you like adventures? Please share in the comments about your favorite one, I love reading about other people's travels!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Cruising the Inside Passage: Whale Watching in Juneau


For Christmas my daughter and her husband gave us this cute card with the offer to pay for an excursion on our upcoming cruise to Alaska. She hates to be cold and obviously cannot imagine why anyone would go on a vacation anyplace without palm trees. Did you know that research shows that investing your money in experiences returns more happiness for your money than buying stuff?

There is so much about our family being revealed in this card. Anyway, we chose whale watching!

wildlife tour

Our travel companions, The Food Maven and Travel Bully did all the research and found a lovely whale watching tour. Juneau Tours and Whale Watch provided a fun and informative morning on the water in Auke Bay and the Inside Passage. The weather was cool and cloudy, just what we want when escaping Memphis heat and humidity, with breathtaking views in every direction. We did in fact see whales and some seals from a distance.

juneau alaska

Later just as I was about to get a great video of a whale's fluke about to go under this boat crossed right in front of my field of vision! GRRR.

My husband doing his best Captain Ahab.

whale blow

Thar she blows! Everything about this experience made me want to talk like a salty old sailor.

whale watching

There are rules. We liked that.

auke bay

These humpback whales have traveled from Hawaii and are feeding on the krill in this area. So they were basically just thinking--FOOD! Kind of like me when I'm on a cruise. Maybe a hungry whale is my spirit animal. 

After our bus returned us to the cruise dock we headed to the Red Dog Saloon.
juneau alaska

You've got to love a place with sawdust on the floor. There were so many things to look at it was really hard to focus on the menu. Did I mention that I am super distracted as well as indecisive when eating at someplace new? This place had way too much stuff for me to look at and wonder about to be able to focus on reading a menu.

juneau alaska

The General and the Travel Bully take a break to think about the next adventure.

There were a lot of great signs in this town but this one combined with the picture above is super amusing to me.

amusing sign

We did all of this and still had time to head back to the ship for lunch and change of clothes for the afternoon excursion...