Thursday, July 31, 2008

Too Sexy !

Remember the song, "I'm too sexy for my. . ." Maybe these dizzy lilies are just too beautiful. Look at this slightly imperfect blossom.(Thanks to the Orioles.) The color , the shape, those beauty spots are all meant for attraction. It is unbelievably gorgeous, and you can't even smell the breathtaking fragrance.

It is after all what flowers live for, seduction, pollination and reproduction. After the week these blossoms have had , I'm so impressed to see them open. One has to admire their determination.

I myself have to resist the temptation to get a whiff of that amazing fragrance before I leave for work. Gardeners who grow lilies are often seen out in public with pollen on their noses.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Stone Wall or Stone Pile?

Here we have a "temporary stone pile" and a stone wall under construction. Which one is which? Why?

The curve in the stone wall makes the answer easy. The first picture is the stone wall.

But if you look closely ,it is the ends that show the difference. The two sides of the wall and the pile are stacked in a similar manner, but the fill stones in the middle of the wall tell the story. In the stone wall the "chinkers" are laid flat so that gravity will help to hold them in place . In the temporary stone pile, the stones in the center are loosely piled in random fashion.

In both cases, left undisturbed these structures are pretty darned permanent!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Circumstantial Evidence?

We will start with exhibit A, A nice photo of Liatris. It’s a beautiful, well mannered plant that butterflies love. It’s the dizzy lily buds that also show in the picture that concern us now. These lilies were eaten by the deer last year , and we have been watching them closely. They were looking good!

Yesterday morning Ed called me to the window to watch a large group of beautiful yellow birds. We enjoyed watching them frolicking in the garden. A quick check with the binoculars and my bird books determined that they were a group of female and immature Baltimore Orioles. Apparently the males are elsewhere. We had to go out yesterday, so I didn’t give the birds another thought. Last evening when we returned home , the birds were still here. I watched them from the window. They stayed right in the garden until the marsh hawk flew over at which point they made for the trees. It was later when I went out to the garden that I discovered the damage.

Here you see exhibit B. Some of the dizzy lily buds were in shreds. The lilies were damaged . The birds were here. They had opportunity . They had motive(nectar) . It looks bad. I didn’t want to believe it. The birds were so beautiful. We put the lilies in protective custody for their own safety.

Finally you see exhibit C. This morning the birds were back. I myself witnessed the carnage on the trumpet vine from the kitchen window. The culprits were caught red-handed so to speak. I’ve heard of a murder of crows, but I never heard of marauding gangs of Baltimore Orioles.
I tried to make a citizen’s arrest, but I can’t even get close enough to snap a decent picture. We’ll just have to harass them and hope they skip town. After all they are a flight risk!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Crazy About Pickles?

Why in the world would anyone grow so much dill? I do like pickles and a dill sauce is nice, but that is only a small part of it.

Here you have the little devil who made me do it. This is the black swallowtail butterfly that uses dill as caterpillar food. When I saw those green , black and yellow caterpillars, I just had to leave the dill plants growing even though they are crowding the lavender plants. These butterflies are gorgeous. This newly hatched one was very hard to catch with the camera. Actually he's still moving!

There is a window when no caterpillars are on the dill. If I pull the dill now what will the next generation eat? Looks like the lavender will stay crowded. These butterflies are the most wanted.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

For Hummingbirds Only

There's nothing quite like a red trumpet vine. This one given to me by Elle. We have had to move it several times and it resented it. It is a late bloomer and shows no leaf growth in the spring. I used to look for a replacement when I did my spring plant buying. I soon learned that the nurseries had dead sticks too, so I would go back home and wait for my dead stick to come to life. It always did, but up until last year we had only leaves. Finally a few flowers appeared . This year it is flowering like crazy. The flowers bloom for a short time and then drop off to the ground. I'm thinking about cutting it back. Did you ever hear of a trumpet vine standard? It's planted next to a fence post and has reached the top.

Here is a hummingbird's eye view of a trumpet vine flower. As far as I know only a humming bird can reach the nectar in these deep trumpets. The bloom is actually larger than the bird. The birds don't seem to mind, they fly right up there like you would drive into your garage and stick their extremely long tongue into the long tubular flower.

There was quite a thunder and lightening show last night complete with heavy rain and a power outage. I'm not fond of this extreme weather but some of the plants are loving the heat and water.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Itsy Bitsy Spider

I went out to the garden early this morning with the camera to try to improve on this shot that I took yesterday. Sadly there were nothing but random webs, so I guess my slightly out of focus picture is it. This wire is the support for the scarlet runner beans and the moon flowers. The rectangles are 2 inches by 4 inches. This web is just about an inch in diameter and the spider really is itsy bitsy.

The other reason I was out early was to pick squash blossoms to stuff for dinner. You have to get out there early because they close up fairly early in the day.

Just like in the song the sun actually did come out yesterday. Ed got some mowing done, we froze some green beans and best of all I took a tractor ride to the back meadow. It's an exciting up, down, and all around ride. Imagine a whole field of milkweed flowers complete with monarch butterflies dancing in the sunlight. I even saw several pairs mating. One pair flew right past my nose.

Today looks like another beautiful day so I'm on my way out to the garden before it gets too hot.
First I'll pick my salad ingredients while they are still crispy and get them in the refrigerator . It will be a great day! Fun in the garden and then stuffed squash blossoms with garden salad for dinner. Perfect!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Time for Beans

The scarlet runner beans are just blossoming. I plant these for the hummingbirds, and I love the big, shiny, pink, and black beans. They grow on tall climbing plants, and lend themselves to growing on tee pees or arches . This year they are on wire with the moon flowers.

The green beans , yellow beans and Italian beans have been ready for picking for awhile now. Unlike most things that get picked first thing in the morning, we wait to pick the beans until the vines have dried. Beans can get "rust", and I was always told not to disturb the beans when they are wet because of it. Lately with our thunder storms every day, finding a time to get into the bean patch has been a problem.

Finally yesterday Ed had a opportunity to pick the Italian green beans. Neither one of us enjoy picking the beans. The vines make me itch, so I appreciate his doing it. The Italian beans are now in the freezer. We did get more rain last night so we will play the same game today with the yellow and green beans.

The garden is overflowing with food now, so harvesting is taking the time used for weeding before. Believe me when I say the weeds are taking advantage of this. With all this rain they are growing like weeds. There will be oodles of compost to harvest when we can get to it.

Two bluebirds were seen sitting on the posts in the garden yesterday. I didn't get the binoculars on them, but I think they were the latest babies.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Flowering Hens and Chicks

I have been watching this plant with interest. The flowers are quite beautiful and are lasting for several weeks.
Here is a more recent picture. The original central "hen" is gone. Little " chicks" are forming between the other hens. The plant next door has the "chicks" but no flower stalk. I find it amazing!

We have been having rain every day. I 'm waiting for a dry enough day to harvest the green beans. I hope it comes soon!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Gloriosa Daisies

It's easy to see why these gloriosa daisies are so popular. They put on a spectacular display of color in the garden. This particular strain came from Elle. I almost lost them because I had them in Ed's vegetable garden and most of the small plants got weeded out. This plant is usually a biennial so the small plants from last year must be left to bloom the next year.

For whatever reason, Ed's super soil ,or the weird weather caused these to bloom the first year. They are a bright spot in the garden and bloom for a long time, You can start them from seed or buy a plant at a nursery. They look their very best in the evening just before sunset when they glow with color.

Sweet Peas

I bought these perenniel sweet peas on my spring plant buying spree. I remembered them fondly since my former neighbor Edith had them. After some careful consideration we planted them next to the fence, and put a cage around them. They are growing and blooming beautifully, but I can already see that we have barely contained their exuberance. It's a nice change from the scrawny sweet peas I have planted in the past. I guess if they get out of control and begin to envelop the car, I can always cut them back.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Short List

If instead of a large garden I had only a tiny plot , purple cone flowers, Echinacea purpurea, would go right at the top of my short list of things to plant. The flowers are beautiful and last for a very long time. The plant habit is neat. I've even been known to make tea from the fresh leaves when I feel a cold coming on. These days there are all kinds of hybrids available, new colors, odd shapes. I like the old ones. How can one improve on such perfection?

Butterflies love this flower and get so busy drinking the nectar that it's actually easy to get a picture of them. You might notice some insect holes in the rays of the flower. With all the rain( thunder storms last night and more rain this morning) and humidity the bugs are soooo... happy. There's one of those evil Japanese beetles on the left edge of this very picture. They are out there having a beetle orgy on my asparagus fern right now. I'm generally a nonviolent person, but today I feel like getting a jar of soapy water to ping them into and going out to spoil their fun.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bee Balm, the Downside

It's not quite as hot today, but the humidity is unbelievable. I can't tell if there are clouds or if we are just in one. Everything is wet including me.

My bee balm is now showing its Achilles heel. I swear there was no sign of this powdery mildew yesterday. Humidity brings on the powdery mildew and bee balm gets it. We don't use chemicals in the garden. When the plants finish blooming, I will cut them to the ground and clean up all the plant debris.

I guess I should have mentioned this before, but the truth is I get so enthralled with the color, bumblebees, hummingbird moths and butterflies that I totally forget about the downside for this plant. Even with their spotty leaves, the Monardas still look fabulous from a distance!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thyme for a Trim

We went out to the garden early this morning. After last night's thunder storms everything is wet, the humidity and temperature are up there. Ed went to pick blueberries and I started in cutting back things that are finished, and pulling all those weeds that seem to be growing and going to seed before my very eyes.

When the sun got to be too much, I went to work in the shade. We don't have a lot of shade here, but in the morning the patio on the west end of the house is in the shade. I'm trying to get red creeping thyme started there. I got the clippers and gave the plants a close trim. Thyme plants need to be cut back after flowering to keep them in shape. In past years I put the thyme clippings in the compost. This time I had one of those light-bulb-over-your-head moments. I weeded the remaining places where I want the time to grow, and spread the thyme clippings there.

Planting seeds where you want plants to grow is hardly a new idea. I've been moving chervil and dill around the garden that way for years. I just make a nice place in the dirt and lay the seed heads there. It works like a charm. Let's hope it works for the thyme. It would be so much easier than transplanting little plants.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Busy Bee Balm

Yesterday was a very busy garden day. The pea vines were pulled and the last of the peas harvested. Blueberries, and the peas not slated for dinner went into the freezer. The last of the garlic is in the basement for curing. It's starting to dry down a bit. I'm really glad because the strong garlic smell down there was starting to make me queasy.

I finished the dishes from the vegetable freezing and gazed out the window. There dancing over, on, and around the bee balm were a half a dozen tiger swallowtails. What a delight they are to watch! They lured me out into the heat with my camera in hand. I took quite a few pictures and did get one of a slightly ragged tiger. I totally understand why they used to go out with a net and a killing jar, but my butterflies are free!

Another bee balm lover is this humming bird moth. These little guys by themselves are enough to make a person plant bee balm. If you have never seen one you are missing something way cool! There were several of them whizzing around along with a lot of bumblebees. In spite of the name, bee balm, the flowers are too deep for honey bees to collect nectar.

The red strain of bee balm is really magnificent. The humming birds keep everyone else away. They are territorial and the red is theirs. Imagine what it would be like to have a hummingbird after you if you were a butterfly. It would be like a dog fight between a jet and a glider. If humming birds and butterflies are your thing bee balm (Monarda) is a must have!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

We had valley fog this morning and the dew on the smoke bush was dazzleing. Unfortunately like Monet trying to catch the transitory light, I just couldn't seem to capture the moment with the camera.
This picture is taken more in the middle of the day. The wispy plumes are pink. I wish I had a picture of the bush in the evening when the reds and yellows in the garden get so vibrant. It is even more gorgeous then. I've tried, but the pictures just don't capture the color of the light.

This particular smoke bush was a gift from Phyllis. She offered it, and I couldn't say no. I knew someone who had a gorgeous specimen, and I always wanted one. At that time we were short on space so the bush got planted where it is now. It's not a in a perfect spot, and it needs propping, but when I look out the window in the morning and see the hummingbird perched on that one dead branch, and those beautiful plumes, I couldn't love it more!

If you ever get a chance to get a smoke bush grab it! It puts on a spectacular show. Why I would even go to a nursery and buy one!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Black Caps and Blueberries

It's easy to see that it is time to pick the black raspberries. We always eat a few of these on cereal, and it's so hard to pick berries without tasting them. But, most of the black caps we pick go into white vinegar to make the raspberry vinegar for our favorite raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing. Using the fruit in this manner solves the seed problem. There are only a few more berries left , as you can see from the two pink berries that are not yet ripe. The time for picking these is short.

Today was the first day for picking the high bush blueberries. Freezing these is our mid July tradition. We like to have them for breakfast everyday all year. Last year was a complete crop failure. The bushes dropped all their fruit in response to no rain. This year the berries are superb. Ed will pick as many as he possibly can, and we will freeze them on trays, then store in plastic bags in the freezer for future use. He will never come close to picking them all but the birds and critters will enjoy the rest. Don't step in the blue scat!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What a Cute Baby!


When I first saw this pretty little prostrate plant, I thought it had to be something nice. In the shade it even has colored spots on the leaves. I was so sure that I let it grow. What a mistake! Not only does it not stay pretty, it self seeds like there is no tomorrow. It’s called thyme-leaved spurge( scourge in my book) and is listed in my weed book. Ralph Waldo Emerson said of a weed, “A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” As far as I can see the virtues of this plant are that is a cute baby and it only reproduces by seed. So if you see this one and you think it is pretty, that’s fine, but don’t wait too long to pull it.

Passione del Giardino

One of Ed’s three garlic beds in June

Some gardeners are passionate about roses, some about daylilies, some about orchids. Ed is passionate about garlic. His garlics have names like Catherine’s, White Bishop, Siberian, Berlinkleiner ... Some of the varietal names mark the person that was the source of the garlic. Others are listed in any seed catalog. Each one has it’s own special qualities. The number and size of the cloves, the growth habit, the flavor, the storage ability are different for each one. We still have garlic from last year's harvest.

The garlic is planted the fall. Right around Columbus Day is good for our location. He was Italian so it makes the date easy to remember. Buy seed garlic at a farmer’s market or get organic. The stuff from the grocery store has likely been treated to keep it from sprouting. Break the bulbs into single cloves. Plant the best and eat the others. After that you just have to wait for spring. The garlic comes up at about the same time as the tulips.

Picture of garlic with scape in June

When the scapes, garlic’s version of a flower, appear, Ed goes around and cuts them off. It is generally thought that the bulbs will do better if the plant does not put energy into flower and seed production.

The garlic is ready for harvest.
Garlic plant with five remaining leaves Ed’s hand

Now there is much to do. The garlic is harvested , dried, cleaned and hung to cure in the basement. It’s easy to find Ed this time of year, just follow your nose to the spot that smells like an Italian delicatessen.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Poppy Portrait

I used to take pictures with daddy's 35 mm camera. Every now and then I surprise myself with a digital photograph that reminds me of those days. This shot of a slightly different color poppy and seed pod with the rest of the picture a little out of focus, is an example of photographs I used to take. I was trying to take a picture of a honey bee and got off center. You can just barely see him at the top of the picture. My dad would have loved this one!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The First Sunflower

I know I should at least wait until the flower is open , but sorry, I just can't. These sunflowers are one of my very favorite things in the garden. You will be seeing more of them. Another of my pop- up- everywhere- from- seeds plants, the sunflowers came originally from some Budgie seed that I planted a long time ago. They are not just a single stem flower, you can see a second bud in the picture. It's more of a sunflower bush. This one is planted right in front of the house and with the reflected light off the white siding it gets full sun and a half.

We are having other firsts as well. I picked my first summer squash, first zucchini and first parsley. Dinner last night was a delicious reminder of why we grow garden vegetables.

The other first this morning was the close encounter Ed had with a coyote in the side yard. As he was coming out of the house and up the stone ramp from the basement , he saw the coyote between the compost bin and the shed. Their eyes met and after a time the coyote turned and he and Ed went their separate ways. I'm not quite so brave, I 'm sure seeing the coyote that close would have brought one of my shrieks and both of us would have beat a hasty retreat.

Which Came First?

Which came first the chicken or the egg? In this case it's which comes first the blossom or the squash? I never really considered that question until I took this picture about four days ago. There they were, tiny little yellow squash with the beginnings of a blossom. They looked like that right up until yesterday's rain.

Look at the difference. Now the little squash have big yellow female blossoms . Once the blossoms are pollinated the squash will grow and develop seeds. The male blossoms are the smaller flowers on the skinny little green stems. It will only be a day or two and we will be eating yellow squash. The wonderful garden treats of summer just keep on coming.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Beautiful Bee Balm

The bee balm is beginning to bloom. A big attraction to hummingbirds and hummingbird moths, this plant is one of my favorites. This mahogany bee balm was given to me by Jennie. She moved away some years ago but the plant remains to make me think of her now and then.

Most often you will see Monarda didyma in red, the hummingbird's favorite. It is blooming too. I also have a patch of lavender bee balm which is just beginning to open. The other bee balm that I have is Monarda fistulosa, also called wild bee balm. It is hot pink and is also just beginning to open.

We will visit bee balm again, especially if I am successful in getting a decent hummingbird moth picture.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Our Scented Garden and Peas

Yesterday was a hot summer day. It’s been dry here, and the plants were beginning to look as wilted as I felt . Ed spent a little time in the garden in the morning hilling the potatoes and doing some weeding, but it soon became too hot to be fun.

Last evening we ventured out to look at the garden , get some air , and take advantage of the evening scented plants. Ed walked by the compost pile to check the bird feeder and heard a blood curdling shriek from me. Now it could be anything that causes this. It’s an involuntary thing with me caused by the unexpected, a mouse, a snake, anything. In this case it was a skunk on top of the compost pile just about shoulder height where Ed was walking. I guess I scared the skunk. He looked at me and then sort of hunkered down to make himself small. That gave Ed a chance to get out of there. Needless to say we retreated back inside house , feeling like it was our lucky day. That was not the scent we were after! We watched the skunk saunter off after we were safely behind the glass of the bedroom window.

This morning it was pea picking, shelling and freezing day. We opened the cage, picked the peas and put the vines in the compost. I like shelling peas. It takes me back to my childhood. Processing food from the garden is a very satisfying experience. Best of all after a cloudy morning , we are getting some real rain. The plants are looking greener and happier by the minute.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Top of the Wall Stone

Our garden is in a spot where stones abound. The glacier left them here. For an ordinary farmer they are an annoyance. For a stone wall builder they are raw materials. Builders of stone walls have a special feeling for stones. Every stone is good for something. They can be wall stones , patio stones , path stones, fill for the driveway stones, and occasionally a stone chosen for spot on top of one of the stonewalls.

This unusual stone was found while Ed was weeding. It's quite dense and shiny with lots of sparkles. After we washed it off and got a good look , we both agreed that it was a stone for the top of the wall. That's where we put those interesting stones that we want to pick up and look at again.
It should stay there unless a crow takes a shine to it.

Egyptian Walking Onions

I love these onions even though they are kind of like a bad hair day. They start out looking like a perfectly normal onion and then the top bulbs begin to grow new plants . Eventually the top part falls to the ground and another plant takes root . I love the sculptural quality of these plants.
They are easy to start just get a couple of the top bulbs to plant and you'll soon have a patch.

A lot of onions grow in our garden. We grow garlic, potato onions, onion plants , shallots, chives and these Egyptian onions. It may seem odd to grow so many, but I use the chives and shallots raw for their more delicate flavor. The red and white onions are sweet , and wonderful for sauteing. The potato onions are a bunching onion. You plant one and get a bunch. They store very well and we can save seed from them to replant next year. Fresh garlic is a necessity for us. I use the Egyptian onions in recipes that call for scallions.

I really was captivated by the onion braid in Michael Caine's kitchen in the movie The Ipcress File. I hope I'll be making some cool braids this year. I'm particularly watching the red and white sweet onions and of course the garlic.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The One Who Lived

The beans are beginning to blossom and the hollyhock that we left to grow along the edge of the bean bed is putting on a magnificent display. We make so many decisions in the garden. It's nice when one turns out so well. The fence on the beans is four feet tall, so you can see this hollyhock is quite a specimen.

The flowers turned out to be pink. With pink hollyhocks, pink poppies, pink milkweed we have a real pink thing going. What perfect planning! No make that luck!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Milkweed and Monarchs

How well do you know milkweed? It has an amazing fragrance, beautiful flowers and is the plant of choice for Monarch butterflies. Honey bees like it too. I finally saw a honey bee and it was on the milkweed. Not every gardener would let milkweed grow in their garden however, because it spreads like crazy. Of course a little thing like that would never stop me where fragrance and butterflies are involved.

I have to recommend a book, An Extraordinary Life, by Laurence Pringle. It should be in the juvenile section of your library. The story of the Monarch is an amazing one and this book is great. For my money you can't beat a children's book for something like this. It tells you exactly what you want to know and usually in a delightful way.

I wanted to get a picture of this spectacular male Monarch on the milkweed. I made several tries with fuzzy results. That's what I love about plants. They don't flit around when you want to take their picture. I finally caught up with him on the poppy next door. In case you want to know how I know it's a male, and you don't know where to look, you can check his back wings for those two black scent glands.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Hooray for the Red White and Blue

Red Salvia

White Nicotiana
Blue Allium

Have a safe and happy 4th!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Beauty and the "Beast?"

We are getting rain today and it is just what the garden needs. Peas , peppers, lettuce, basil are all out there ready for the picking. The flowers are coming on like crazy. I chose these beautiful day lilies from Susan to show you today. They are in their glory

But I had to show you something else that is going on. The hens and chicks are putting on quite a display. There are all kinds of little chicks coming in between the hens, but the center of the plant... Oh my!

This picture shows the top of the stalk. With today's rain, I can hardly wait to see where it goes from here!