Rest in Peace, precious Ichiban

Is it wrong to cry over koi? Well, I did last night when I came home to the news that my husband found our prized koi (prized by us) floating on the pond. And I shed a few tears. Of all the fish we have (13) she was special.

We’d had her since 2001, one of three, 3-4″ koi fish we bought at a local pond supply. She was beautifully marked in red and white. We didn’t know at the time she was a girl – but we named her Ichiban, Japanese for ‘number one.’ She reigned supreme as the queen of the backyard.

https://delawaregardener.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/ponds/  As the koi grew, they became accustomed to our habits and movements and Ichiban was the one that always approached us at pond’s edge, let us pet her on the side and after a short amount of training, ate trustingly from our hands.

She was a show stopper and a performer. After two seasons of being well fed, she grew gregarious and had a friendly, if not curious personality.

She’d spy us and swim over, her mouth opening and closing. “Feed Me! Feed Me!” she seemed to say.

When we had to replace a pond liner a few years ago, she didn’t fight the net and calmly let us transfer her to a temporary pool – one where we could pet her with ease.

When we added a butterfly koi around 2009 or so, her behavior changed to that of a spawning female. She’d race around the pond, thrashing, side to side, and flipping in the air, sort of playing hard to get, or so it seemed to us.

Ichiban is one of our original four koi we bought in 2002. She is very friendly, lets us pet her and feed her. She is a piggy and a show off!
Ichiban was one of our original four koi we bought in 2002. She is very friendly, lets us pet her and feed her. She is a piggy and a show off!

We knew little of the game of koi courtship. We had a lot of plants in the pond that year. By the end of the summer, we found  many new baby koi with Ichiban’s markings along with swishy, graceful butterfly tails.

We always have had to fight off predators.Southern Delaware has an abundance of waterways, but Blue Herons nevertheless found our small patch of water irresistable. In 2013, we bought a dozen or so copper shepherds hooks and placed them around the pond – this allowed a net to be stretched across the entire length and width of the pond and raised up 8 ” or so off the surface of the water.

koi in Delaware pond
The leader of the pack

Each year, as temperatures cooled, we watched all the fish begin to huddle together in the deepest section of our pond, about 5 feet deep, and there they’d reliably stay until the warmth of spring called them back to us.

Ichiban was always the first to feed and always the one that got the most chow.

We don’t know what happened to her. She did not seem to want to hibernate this year and came up to the surface often during the odd warm spell.

We also had our coldest winter, and like all winters in the past, we ran a warming stone that floated on the surface. We found her coming up to that several times and then go back down. She appeared confused.

Confusion, something internal, we don’t know – the snow and ice and collected leaves lowered down to the water’s surface. We’re not entirely sure, but we think she came up during a warm spell (in the 40 degrees) and the net might have stopped her from returning back down.

We found her, and one of her pretty offspring lifelessly floating together.

It is natural to love our pets and grieve over them like family. Ichiban wasn’t exactly like a cat or dog, or horse – but we had a relationship with her. Unlike the other fish, she had a personality, or we attributed one to her. For 14 years she entertained us. We had a bond. Our pond had a personality.

At pond's edge. Feed me!
At pond’s edge. Feed me!

Lovin the Limelight

My hydrangeas took a horrendous hit this past winter. We had sustained cold blast, followed by a tricky warm period, which was followed promptly by another sustained cold spell. All but one of my macrophyllas and lace caps did not bloom this year.  Since I am so heavily invested in hydrangeas, I had a marvelous display of brown twigs to show off this year. This is a split photo showing 2014 atop 2013. Fortunately, there was green leafs at the crown and the plant did green out by summer’s end. It just didn’t bloom:

One of many hydrangeas that under performed in 2014
One of many hydrangeas that under performed in 2014

Fortunately my love for my mother’s favorite plant, caused me to diversify my hydrangea collection. I have two Oakleaf hydrangeas that did very well and were not affected by the late frost. Last year, I bought a Limelight hydrangea and its first year, it set out a couple of blossoms, but nothing spectacular. This year, my sole Limelight must have sensed my hydrangea deficiency, because it delighted me throughout the summer.

I didn’t detect too much lime in the limelight. The blossoms which arrived in late July and August looked like they came right out of a bridal catalog!

At first the limelight blossoms were almost a perfect white!
At first the limelight blossoms were almost a perfect white!
This limelight, close up with a macro lens, is fit for a bride, don't you think?
This limelight, close up with a macro lens, is fit for a bride, don’t you think?
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The panicles were bright and puffy
This limelight panicle showed just a feather's hint of pink
This limelight panicle showed just a feather’s hint of pink
This one demonstrated the signature subtle lime color
This one demonstrated the signature subtle lime color

I just had to bring them indoors to enjoy, using some variegated hydrangea foliage that did not bloom this year!

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I was conflicted in cutting and removing any of these blooms! As the ones that remained aged, they began to intensify their colors of lime and pink!

I think I have a new favorite variety!
I think I have a new favorite variety!

Yes, the summer of 2014 was less than spectacular for my reliable show-stoppers – the lacecaps and macrophyllas! So glad another hydrangea decided to hog the limelight!

Winter Garden

March couldn’t make up its mind how it wanted to come in – A Lion or A Lamb! So it did both!
Within a 24 hour period we saw two weather extremes!

Okay, what's it going to be - Lamb or Lion?
Okay, what’s it going to be – Lamb or Lion?
River Birch bark falls and hugs emerging daffodils. "Don't worry, winter will soon be over!"
River Birch bark falls and hugs emerging daffodils. “Don’t worry, winter will soon be over!”
Crabapples on ice
Crabapples on ice
A delicate pieris braves winter storm Titan
A delicate pieris braves winter storm Titan