Friday, July 31, 2009

Special Garden Treats

With the all day rain the garden has been left on it's own. These Everbearing strawberries were picked right before we came in from the garden last evening. This variety of strawberries produces when the others do, but the plants continue to blossom and produce fruit throughout the Summer. I have to say the berries we had on our breakfast cereal this morning were a very special treat. In a day or so there will be more.

Nothing , but nothing tastes better than a luscious strawberry, warm from the sun eaten immediately after being plucked from the garden. A dozen plants take up so little space. Of course here we need a cage covered with bird netting to protect them from birds, deer, woodchucks and rabbits. Ants have established hills in the crowns of several plants. For the moment these plants appear fine but their future is dim. Daughter plants will likely serve as replacements next Spring. We know of no way to eliminate the ants. John Burroughs wrote of being drawn into the fields by the aroma of ripe strawberries in his essay "Pepacton". We lack his words but we enjoy a version of his berries.

Bloom Where You're Planted !

It's the end of July and the garden is burgeoning with food, flowers, and weeds. Oh my do we have weeds! We have definitely lost control, not that we ever really had it. Yesterday, Ed and I tackled some badly needed weeding. "We have a red lupine!", I heard him exclaim from across the garden. I dropped what I was doing and went to see what he had uncovered. There it was, bent, and crooked from fighting for its place in the sun. But, its magnificent red blossoms were stunning! You have to admire a plant that produces such beauty in spite of everything.

As gardeners we can learn so much from plants. It's important to do your best to bloom even if conditions are not to your liking. It's fine to be a little bent and crooked but you if you can manage gorgeous red blossoms , put them out there. If you wait for conditions to be perfect, look at the beauty you will be missing!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bee Balm Of A Different Color

If you like hummingbirds, you need bee balm. They love the red, but why stop there. This hot pink is Monarda fistulosa. Sometimes referred to as wild bee balm,it has a slightly different fragrance and leaf shape.

The lavender Bee balm is a cultivar of M. didmya. It is taller and begins to bloom a bit later than the red. All the bee balms are blooming now. They are very busy plants attracting bees, bumblebees, hummingbirds and hummingbird moths. With all the wet weather there is some powdery mildew. I don't worry about that, but I do cut the plants to the ground right after flowering, and remove all the debris. It's so worth it!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Great Photo Ops

This is a nice picture of my drumstick alliums. New this year, they have been flowering for several weeks . Long bloom time, great color,interesting shape and they come up from a bulb. I'm in love!

The photo op I would have liked to have, but missed, happened yesterday. Ed and I were coming home, and when we crossed the river bridge he thought he saw a white heron. Prince Charming that he is he turned around and went back so I could see. I saw it, but then as I watched another large white bird appeared near the opposite river bank. We watched for some time finally seeing two more slightly smaller, more slender birds. It looked like a family of four. These birds were not white herons which are a variation of the Great Blue Heron seen only in Florida, but Common Egrets. To me they were anything but common. How often does one get to see four of these huge white statuesque birds with their long legs and long necks. I guess I might have seen them before from far off and wondered what the large white bird might be, but this up close opportunity to see them was a first. It was thrilling and totally uncommon!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Simply Resistable

For more than a decade the squash borers have held the upper hand here. Every non chemical attempt at control has come up short. This year the squash was planted far away from the garden. So far the borer moth has not found my plants. Neither have the pollinators. Beautiful bushy plants with upward pointing open blossoms and not a bee to be seen. With no pollination the baby squash shrivel and turn to mush.

Here is part of the problem. The squash occupy a corner near the woods surrounded by acres of milkweed. Heady fragrance from these flowers fills the air. Bees are all over the milkweed blossoms. A path walk now features so much buzzing that it is a little unsettling. The bees are happy working the abundant pollen source so they are docile. We do look for an empty flower before sniffing. This is one of my favorite times of the year. The scent from these flowers is pleasant beyond description. If this fragrance were bottled in perfume, I would likely find it irresistible. The common view of milkweed is limited to a weed used by Monarch butterflies. We see so much more. Some is even allowed to grow in the garden. Squash is for sale along the roadside. I will be happy to buy my squash and walk near the sweet scented, bee drawing milkweed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I Got This One Right!

Although the sun was hiding behind clouds again this morning, the colors on this delphinium photo are perfect. The eye and the camera saw exactly the same shades of blue. For once the tall flower is blooming and in the back next to the fence instead of in the front. The simple concept of short in the front and tall in the back seems to have escaped my grasp in many places this year.

Monday, July 20, 2009

You're Outta Here!

These days I feel like I should be wearing a striped shirt and a whistle, before I go out to the garden. With all this rain, and now some sun, the plants are pushing and shoving each other and fighting amongst themselves. It's not just the weeds either, although the grasses, purslane, woody nightshade, French weed ... are everywhere just waiting to be pulled.Those decisions are easy. Those plants have to go, they don't belong in the garden.

Much more difficult choices must be made. Plants that I love like these pink poppies are growing out of bounds. Looking all pink and pretty, they completely obliterated the butterfly bushes. "You're outta here, Buddy!" I though to myself as I pulled up a large and gorgeous poppy plant. The compost is burgeoning with the weight of these plants. I can't help thinking of the tiny poppy seed that produced these huge plants, as I trudge over to the compost with my arms full of poppies that are nearly as tall as I am.

At the end of the contest, I'm pleased with the results.Now the lavender can breathe. The butterfly bushes are no longer planted in the shade. The Clara Curtis chrysanthemum will have a chance to show off its beautiful shape and gorgeous pink flowers. I wonder if poppy petals make good mulch?

Tired, I've hung up my whistle for now, but the plant pushing and shoving continues.I'll need to get back out there and soon!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mrs. Burns' Lemon Basil & Salad Burnet

More rain today so it's too wet to mow. Ed weeded the Mrs Burns' lemon basil and the salad burnet. It's an aromatic pleasure to weed and to pinch off the flowers of the lemon basil. Mrs. Burns' is doing very nicely. We will definitely plant that variety again next year. I love the smell of lemon basil and it lends a nice surprise when added to a salad. If you have enough, it makes a slightly different , but delicious pesto.

The salad burnet ( lower left) has a cucumber-like smell and taste. The little saw toothed leaves are great in a salad especially when they are small. Salads here are always surprising. I wander around the garden and pick lettuce, arugula, a little lemon basil, salad burnet, tarragon, chives or whatever looks good today. Our house dressing is a raspberry vinagrette. This year the salad greens have been outstanding.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lovely Landini Lilies

These Landini lilies are blooming beautifully. With the weather this year many of our lilies are not doing as well. We had more rain this morning, and it actually feels like a summer day. With this humidity the garden will not dry off much.Dark clouds are building in the west, and thunder rumbles in the distance. For now the sunshine is welcome. We take what we can get!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blueberry Blues

Every year at this time Ed picks the wild high bush blueberries that grow here, and I freeze them to enjoy all winter. Last year was a very good year.We have some berries left over from 2008. We need them! If you look you can find some blueberries in this picture. Usually Ed only has to pick them. Finding them is not the issue. I suspect it's the June 1 frost that played a major role in their scarcity. Time to face facts. Today I stopped by the local supermarket and bought some blueberries imported from New Jersey to put in the freezer. They won't be the same of course, but they will have to do.

This morning we pulled the vines of first two plantings of peas. With all this wet weather,they were spotty and yucky. Intensive garden planting is great. It cuts down on weeding,and you can plant a lot in less space, but with the plants so close together, when something goes wrong it can be a disaster. We have enjoyed fresh snow peas, and I did get to freeze some shelled peas to enjoy this winter. One planting still remains and is doing better. The staggered planting times made a big difference in the peas' performance this year. With plantings two weeks apart , the first was fair, the second pathetic, and the jury is still out on the third.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hummingbird Heaven

When it comes to hummingbirds it's hard to beat red bee balm, Monarda didyma. The weather has been gorgeous for two days in a row, and weeding in the garden has been a pleasure. The female hummingbird works the bee balm right next to me as long as I keep working. If I stop to watch her she flies off to another spot in the garden. I guess she doesn't like the garden help watching her while she eats. I still get a great view of her green iridescent feathers and enjoy the buzzing of her wings. Sometimes she even perches on a wire cage nearby, especially if she is higher than my head. She is the queen of the garden and chases away any intruder that dares to approach her red bee balm. She spends a fair amount of time chasing other hummingbirds in high speed pursuit.No air show could be more exciting!

The tubular flowers open starting in the center, and work their way out. They will bloom for weeks keeping our hummingbirds happy. The Monarda fistulosa, wild pink bee balm and the lavender bee balm will open soon. When they do I'll be watching for hummingbird moths. The hummingbirds do not share the red.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Evening Smoke

With the setting sun the smoke bush takes on a glowing quality that is amazing to see. Unfortunately my camera frequently does not see things the way I do. The reflection of the setting sun off the pink plumes makes them glow. I know I should reshape this bush. However, I spend happy time watching the birds, and they love to sit on that very top branch and revel in their superiority. It's the highest perch in the garden. If I cut it off their game would not be so fascinating to watch.

A closer view of the plumes shows how the puffs of "smoke" really look. It's interesting that the camera picks up streaks of color from the sunlight against the pines, but the rosy glow I was hoping to capture just isn't there. I have a little of Monet's eye, but none of his talent. Look for a smoke bush just before sunset. It's an awesome effect.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Trouble Down Below

We have been locked in a cycle of daily heavy rain for the past several weeks. Water pours off low depressions in the fields where water does not usually run. Saturated ground and wet plants are a cause of concern. Yesterday was clear and dry so I took a look at the garlic. Above ground growth still looks good. Most plants still sport five green leaves and normally harvest would be in the future. The decay at the base of the bulbs says harvest now. With nearly twenty varieties of garlic harvest takes several days. Highly treasured kinds were taken first. Then the rain came.

Normal harvest routine is to dry the garlic on wire cages for one day. Drying takes place in the shade of our one tree and in the basement. Scissors remove the root mass. Then the lowest solid leaf is pulled toward the bulb. All dirt and mold is separated from the plant. Cleaned bulbs are suspended base up on an elevated frame in the basement. Here several weeks pass as the garlic cures. The basement does smell like a salami factory but I have the benefit of an understanding mate.

For the moment the rain has passed. Wet plants cannot be harvested here. We do not have space or the means to remove that much moisture. Now we must wait for a brief dry hour knowing that the bulbs still in the ground are at risk. Once again I am glad that I do not make my living farming. Watching the weather destroy a crop is difficult when the crop is only a pastime. It must be crushing if the crop is your source of income.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Glorious Garden Glut

This is the time when the garden is a little overwhelming. The first shell peas went in the freezer this morning. The second and third pea planting, while planted weeks apart, are coming on fast. There will be snow peas with shrimp and green salad for lunch. The garlic needs to be harvested early. The abundance of rain has had an impact on it. New flowers are blooming every day. The weeds are always waiting. Lavender is ready to be cut...

The gloriosa daisies look so cheery. It helps to make up for the lack of sunshine. There has been no rain so far today, but it's cloudy and looks ominous. So it's make hay while the rain holds off, since sunshine is too elusive this year to rely on.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Big Weed

This is mullein. It's a huge weed.It's often found growing along side the road. I don't let it grow because it's pretty. It has small yellow flowers and big hairy leaves. I let it grow because the goldfinches and chickadees love the seeds. It gives me a chance to watch them from just outside the living room window. It's like having a bird feeder without any effort on my part. The only effort required from me is pulling out the small seedlings growing in places where I don't want this large plant.Ed usually gets the job of uprooting this monster in the spring and hacking it up so it will fit in the compost.

It was a lovely day today , perfect for my sister Sylvia and I to walk around the high meadow. We were lucky enough to see a chestnut sided warbler. It was a new bird for both of us.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Destined To See

Anyone reading plant catalogs has to be impressed with the results that plant breeders have produced with day lilies. Old orange garden escapes line the roadsides in this part of New York. Since they prosper in damp ditches I have long referred to them as sewer lilies. Susan gave us divisions from her day lilies. A dark orange single and a pale sherbet double made me take another look at this plant. I found the catalog offerings hard to believe. The variety and intensity of the colors simply seemed too good to be true. Still I had to try one. Destined to see was my choice. Last year the plant established itself but showed no flower. This year the early growth looked great and buds finally appeared. First flower is proudly pictured here. The illustration in the catalog was completely accurate. The flower shown here is exactly like its catalog picture. Next year's must order lists have already been started. We will likely be looking for another day lily to add to our collection. Some of the reds looked interesting.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Soil Bank

No, I'm not talking about an old government program. This pile that appears in so many pictures of the garden, is sod that Ed piled up while constructing the original garden beds. Just like putting money in the bank, piling up sod gives a gardener a big return. After 10 years, only gorgeous soil and of course some stones remain. It's sitting there ready for use.

This Huge mound that looks like a weedy hill contains the topsoil from when the house was constructed. Good topsoil is literally like money in the bank for a gardener. As you can see Ed has a big pile and as an extra added bonus, more stones.

When you add all that to our aged compost piles , why we're filthy rich!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Thyme To Cut Back

When your thyme plants look like this it's time to cut them back. This plant still has a few flowers, but most of them have gone to seed. This is a nice, relatively new, red creeping thyme plant. It's out by itself and not mixed with the woolly , lemon and wild thyme.I have places where the cuttings go to the compost because the thymes are all mixed together. It's hard enough to separate the types without planting them that way.

Instead of putting all these red creeping thyme seeds in the compost, I spread them on the areas of the newly renovated patio where I want this particular thyme to grow. Any new seedlings that come up in the spring will be a welcome sight!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Spotted Oriental Lily Mix

Van Bourgondien's Fall 2008 catalog offered a spotted Oriental lily mix on page 27. The picture featured Lovely Girl, Dizzy and Muscadet lilies. This beauty is what we received. It is completely lacking fragrance but has a certain charm. It is one of only two lilies that will flower here after our crazy Spring weather and June frost. This one is hardy. It also bears a resemblance to the native wood lily that I have been absolutely unable to find. A search of catalogs offered no lily for sale that looks like our specimen. Few of the previously purchased lilies have survived our zone 4 weather extremes so I would like more of this mystery lily. So far I have no clue as to the identity of this flower. Likely it is a breeders cull that is generally unavailable.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Japanese Iris

This lovely Japanese iris, Iris ensata, is blooming for us for the first time. It has been growing here for two years. Typical of mail order plants, the first year's growth established the plant. This year's late frost and early drought followed by monsoon like rain have not fazed this iris. An old order shows "Freckled Geisha" as the variety. I don't see any freckles, but it is a gorgeous flower. As far as I can tell it has no scent. "This iris is happy in standing water and will not tolerate dry conditions" says the catalog. We don't have standing water, but rain we have had aplenty. Today has been the first sunny day without rain in the afternoon for weeks. The regular iris really drowned this year so it's nice to see this one.

We have some real concerns about the garden being so wet. The 4th may be a holiday, but the bees were working overtime on the lemon thyme blossoms.Bees prefer to work on sunny days. Blue sky and sunshine are reason to celebrate this year. Since it's also the 4th I think fireworks are called for!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Potato Blossoms, Here To Stay Or Gone Tomorrow?

We have our first blossoms on the potatoes. The interesting flowers and berries remove any doubt one might have about this plant being in the nightshade family. I searched through my potato catalog to see what it said about potato blossoms. The only thing I could find is that the blossoms signal that you might be able to steal some new potatoes from the plant at this point. Ed's dad always pinched the blossoms off the potatoes thinking that the plant would then put all it's effort into making potatoes it's only remaining chance to reproduce . That makes some sense, but part of me wants to leave the flowers. Perhaps tomorrow we will remove the blossoms from some of the plants and leave them on others. If we keep track we might get a possible answer as to which choice is better. It will have to wait till tomorrow. It's raining AGAIN!