Monday, August 19, 2019
High humidity and building heat sent us into the shade this morning seeking a somewhat comfortable place to work. Gathering moss covered stones from the wildly overgrown border area seemed like a good idea. Rain forest like moisture dripped from plant leaves making the uneven ground slippery. Caution prevailed and a load of stones was gathered without incident.
Planting this area will be a totally new experience for us. A trip to the back woods in search of natural soil will provide some of the raw materials for the soil that will fill this island. If we complete that task ahead of winter's arrival, we will have a clear area ready to receive native plants next spring. Usually our habit is to frantically prepare a planting spot for the generous load of new purchases bought with little idea of just where they will set out.
This Ruby Spice Summer Sweet may be given a home in the foreground narrow tip seen in the first photo. Calling it a native plant might be viewed as questionable since pure white flowers cover the wild form of Summer Sweet. Both carry the overwhelmingly pleasant aroma that caused this plant to appear here now in several different locations. The real drawback to placing Summer Sweet on Moss Island is its size. A vigorously spreading bush that grows to five feet high will in time overrun this relatively small planting bed. Individual stalks can be pruned without harm to the plant to control its spread but so far we have been unable to cut away parts of such a beautiful plant. One of the entrances to our stone square has been totally closed by this pink beauty and still it remains uncut.
Last night's rain pulled this growth up out of the mulch path just beyond the right distant tip of the bed in the first picture. As fragile as they look, these will be broken and torn by lunch time. Pure luck allowed us to see this short lived beauty today.
Friday, August 16, 2019
Here is one of the great treats of summer in our garden. Amy and I discovered this native plant while hiking in the Gunks. Our first plant for the garden was a small plant taken from a friend's garden. Summer Sweet multiplies freely with each clump consisting of many single shoots with no large trunk to be found. Its scent is wonderful beyond description and carries for considerable distance on the wind.
Any attempt to approach this plant when its flowers are open guarantees other life forms on the plant. These two White Admiral butterflies were so intent on feeding that my close approach did not cause them to fly away. This picture would have been better if I had taken a moment to snap off the brown remains of last year's flowers. I was quite certain that motion would have sent the butterflies away.
This bee is carrying a heavy load of yellow pollen. Its color puzzles me since the open flowers show brown where the pollen forms. Here again a really close approach was not even considered despite the fact that a pollen carrying bee is incapable of assuming a stinging posture.
One of my goals for this year was to have the native plants Cardinal Flower and Summer Sweet growing close together. Bright red blossoms close by nearly pure white flowers could present a perfectly beautiful scene. For some unknown reason the entire center section of the Summer Sweet had no flowers this year. For some time it looked like there might not be leaves on this section of our original plant. We still have much to learn.
In our shade garden down by the road, both Summer Sweet and Cardinal Flower were planted together. As mentioned Summer Sweet grows with single stalks. The transplants are all alive and in flower but their scraggly appearance will be diminished with another year's growth. Several Cardinal Flower transplants were set around the outside of the bushes. If all goes as planned, a stunning photo should be possible next year.
Sunday, August 11, 2019
Our latest attempt to find a natural home for Cardinal Flower is pictured here. Some weeds were cleared before the transplants were set one year ago. Bags of fallen leaves taken from the front area of nearby village homes are in use to both smother weeds and rot down forming a more natural woodland soil. We have come to understand that Cardinal Flower prefers both moist soil and shade. Garden placement usually results in only one year's growth while we are looking for a place where this plant will return year after year with no more help from us. Some of these plants wintered over here while many more were set out this spring to empty the pots. Except for the new plants, adding leaves was all that we did for these plants this year.
Our gravel bank hill rises to the south behind these flowers. The height of the hill and its trees keeps this area in shade most of early spring days. Snow lingers longer here than any other location on our land offering protection when it is needed most. The road to the gravel bank crosses in front of these plants trapping water runoff keeping this ground moist much of the time early in the year. Moist and well drained ground results from the deep gravel deposit under this ground with water frequently running down hill to this spot. We did not see any new plants from seed here but some time is needed for the rotting leaves to form more suitable soil. We remain more than willing to wait since it appears that this location will help Cardinal Flower survive independently here.
Stepping away from our natural ground at the edge of the forest, twelve sizable pots each containing one overwintered plant were placed in a garden bed. We expected to find up to six daughter plants in each pot come spring. It would be a simple task to pull these pots next spring if protection from hard frosts became necessary. Our plans were working well until the deer herd visited. Two plants had their tops nipped off very early on. Recently at least one of the deer walked across this area knocking over several soon to flower stems. This pictured plant is sending up three or four daughter plants inside of the pot rim. They appeared here much earlier than normal in response to the flattened stem. That stem is sending up new stalks that look like they will flower. If soil was placed along side of the now horizontal stem, roots would begin to grow. We want the daughter plants already in pots for next year and are in no way prepared to deal with the excessive number of plants that with help would appear here.
This picture shows the entire planting. Some plants remain as they were planted. Some are sending up new vertical stems in response to earlier trimming by inexperienced fawns. Others were recently knocked over and we will watch to see just how they will grow. It will be interesting to see just what grows here next spring.
Friday, August 2, 2019
Our weeds have really taken over this year. Early weeks of nearly daily rain allowed them to grow unchecked. Recent hot days have limited the number of hours that we can safely work outside. Our gardens have always exceeded our ability to properly care for them but this year has been a real nightmare.
These stones peeking out between rampant flower growth and runaway weeds is our signature wall identifying the location of Stone Wall Gardens. Close to the road, it usually stands out easily seen by drivers speeding up the road. Today this mess finally saw some much needed attention.
Several years ago the farmhouse was purchased by a young couple. Proud of their new home, they worked feverishly to restore the appearance of their grounds. At that time our efforts were directed toward gardens out of sight up the hill. Only a couple of passes with our walk behind mower kept the driveway passable while weeds freely grew on the rest of this ground. The new owner approached me to talk about a screening fence to separate his manicured lawn from my untended mess. I suggested a garden instead. This dry stone wall was built to define the beginning of the garden. Each year we would work to keep the finished sections of the garden presentable while converting new ground from pasture to properly planted ground. Some weeds are always present but this year they simply took over.
Just over half of the length of the wall was cleared of weeds today before the sun drove us inside. A new layer of reground bark mulch was spread on the now weed free area. We intend to finish the section near the wall tomorrow.
Despite the heavy presence of weeds, many flowers can be seen by people speeding by. Red Bee Balm has colorfully held its ground for weeks. Three different Daylilies now peek out above the wall. Gloriosa Daisies make a bold statement closer to the road. Cardinal Flower adds its bright red flowers next to the planted side of the wall. A Ruby Spice Summer Sweet bush is just now coming into bloom. Somehow we have plants that provide a changing display of colors that tends to hide the presence of weeds. That image is possible largely because of the speed with which the cars fly by. Also, the farmhouse is some distance away so all that the neighbors see is patches of color. Recently a highly respected gardener of many years identified the presence of weeds as a necessary component of gardening. Most would agree that we have taken that reality to new limits.
Sunday, July 28, 2019
Sumac trees get worse press coverage than our current President. They are messy, short -lived and spread invasively. We had three growing on the property line but a strong wind toppled all of them. New trees quickly growing from seed is how this cluster came to be. Their shade allows us to grow native woodland flowers. This may be the only occurrence of plants like trillium and hepatica growing under sumac. We do import hardwood leaves in an attempt to establish a more natural woodland soil and so far that is working. The Audubon Society identifies sumac as the only native tree or shrub that grows in all 48 contiguous states. Perhaps that fact will influence an improvement in how this tree is viewed.
Cardinal Flower is highly prized here because of the pure brightness of its red blossoms. As a native plant that flourishes both to our north and south, it presents a huge problem here just keeping it alive. Two rather mild late winters is the reason this cluster looks so impressive. Anyone living near the Grasse River would see this group as pathetically small since these plants grow in abundance there.
Bee balm is our native red that spreads each year forming huge clumps. It is deserving of a better reputation. Perhaps if was more difficult to grow it would be seen as a treasure.
This is the first Royal Catchfly flower ever seen here. Our past attempts to simply have this plant survive all failed. Perhaps the river bottom soil under this specimen retains more moisture that the stony soil up the hill. Whatever the reason we hope that this red flower will be seen here next season.
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
Taking action to give promise to the existence of the next generation is the primary goal of every living organism. Beautiful flowers sometimes exist to draw in pollinators and their scent adds to the effect. This reality sometimes results in confusion. These pictures allowed us to really see for the first time just how Cardinal Flower produces its seed.
Today holds the first appearance this year of these unbelievably bright red flowers in our gardens. This fresh display will continue for many days as new flowers continue to open higher on the stem. Their color absolutely catches the eye making looking for detail a difficult task. The reality that the first task of a freshly opened flower is to complete its fertilization ritual was never noticed until today.
Despite the early hour of my trip down to the mailbox, most of this flower's business has already been completed. The packed tube rising above the five petals was initially capped with a white collection of white filaments that resemble a neatly trimmed human beard. Yellow pollen grains quickly appear there. The stigma pushed outward collecting pollen in the process. Some white pieces of filament and yellow pollen grains fell on the petals during this process.
That pink swollen mass shows the state of the stigma after she gathered a full load of pollen. It will soon go limp as the pollen grains are moved to the base of the flower. There many seeds will grow to maturity.
We have seen these events unfold countless times but failed to realize that all of this happened on the morning that each blossom first opened. Only early risers with access to Cardinal Flowers have the opportunity to see this miracle of creation. Flowers remain intact for several days attracting both hummingbirds and butterflies. The purpose of these visits remains a mystery since pollination can only happen early in the morning with the flower parts quickly completing their tasks unaided.
Saturday, July 20, 2019
An intolerance of heat is increasing in severity as the years pass. We tried to get in some garden work early in the day, but dry and dizzy quickly sent me inside. We are fortunate in that the high temperature forecast for today has been lowered by three degrees to a mere 90. That is within a degree of yesterday's high and we survived that so today looks like another inside the house day.
My large potted Cardinal Flowers needed weeding. We intend for these plants to take the place of early spring potted plants. Each of these will come out of winter with up to six daughter plants growing around the long dead stem of this year's flowering plant. Planting out multiple young plants should increase the display next year. I will also be spared carrying in four heavy trays of potted plants when frost threatens. These twelve pots will likely require six trips to the basement.
A red flower can be seen growing close to the stone wall. Bee Balm is another native plant. In his writings about the scarcity of Cardinal Flower, John Burroughs suggested the substitution of Bee Balm for a red flowering garden plant. Its red is a great looking one and the plant spreads invasively. That said, I do not know why I continue to try and reintroduce Cardinal Flower into the wild and carry it over in the gardens. Bee Balm would require much less work and both the hummingbirds and hummingbird moths freely feed from its flowers.
Keeping these potted plants free of weeds has allowed me to see things never seen before. At the end of the growing season, new plants are present around the old stem. Perhaps these new plants are already up and growing. Not every pot shows this early growth so we intend to watch and learn. This pot contains two stems that will flower this year because the choice was not to pull them apart when they were transferred to pots early this spring.
Some time ago the discovery of deer footprints close by and a nipped off stem did not make me happy. While weeding here today, the footprint was obvious but the cut stem could not be found. Unable to fiercely trust the accuracy of my memory, I could not find the deer damage but remained shakily sure that it was present. Becky quickly found it under the three new stems growing close to the damaged stem. I have seen pictures of the results of pruning Cardinal Flower. Knee high plants densely covered with brilliant red flowers left a lasting impression. Reluctant to prune a native treasure, tall thin natural displays are all that grow here. This year that pesky fawn will allow me to see first hand the results of pruning Cardinal Flower.
This is the dry stone wall that lines the curved ramp to the basement. Snakes are sometimes seen both inside of the wall and outside on level ground. A garter snake and I have had numerous recent encounters. This morning we found its shed skin and once again wondered just how the serpents use our stones to rub off their old skin. This snake is already larger than most seen here. Can't wait to see the larger version dressed in bright new skin.
Friday, July 19, 2019
We have been establishing a list of our various Daylilies in the order of their bloom and trying to clear up any mislabeling. Some years ago the Asiatic and Oriental lilies really captured our imagination. Despite their catalog climate zone listings, we saw them killed by frost year after year. Efforts to protect them from late frost were only marginally successful and now we have basically given them up. This stunning Golden Stargazer is growing near the house and that location has allowed this incredible plant to survive on its own. Its flowers last for several days with this one's scent filling a large area. One does not have to place the nose into the blossom to savor this treat. Walking by at some distance is the best way to enjoy this fragrance.
Wineberry Candy is another delight likely coming from the same breeder as our other candies. All of them are medium sized in both plant height and flower size. The sharp change in color from white to purple is a real eye catcher. Their scent is subdued as is appropriate for a classy beauty.
Becky Lynne was likely chosen for its first name. The Becky that lives here shares many traits evident in this plant. Understated light color gives this flower a softly stunning appearance. Despite its light appearance this is one hardy plant that strongly holds its own space.
Here we have an improperly labeled plant. Its stone says Royal Palace Prince but that is incorrect. When our daytime temperatures moderate, I will search around the base of this plant to see if a correct name can be found. When we were actively buying new plants, a clear bright yellow coloration was what we were searching for. This blossom meets that requirement better than any of the other yellows that grow here. Now we just need to find its correct name.
A small amount of time spent reading this blog revealed that this plant is not mislabeled. It was sold to us as Royal Palace Prince but it clearly is not that variety. We will never know the proper name of this variety but does that really matter?
Big Bird is aptly named. Too big to be graceful, it simply flops over everything close by. Its scent is pleasant and the yellow is close to what we were searching for. Hardy and large, this variety has been successfully divided several times.
Rainbows are fairly common at the Stone Wall Garden. The amazing thing about the one last evening was that we could find no sign of rain. Ed even stepped outside to check and could not see any sign of rain in the west. The picture was taken from the living room window. This view of the garden is a favorite of mine. Usually Ed's stone walls are one of the starring features from this vantage point, but right now lush garden growth has taken over making them disappear.
I have to wonder how we came to have a rainless rainbow. The air was heavy with moisture. Perhaps if the humidity was high enough, that did it? In the end I am just happy that we got to see it and that I got pictures to remember it was there.
Tuesday, July 16, 2019
This post title is not some declaration of the true character my inner self but is the varietal name of a plant. The flower is somewhat understated. Its petals are short and rounded with barely visible ruffled edges. A yellow eye spot sharply contrasts with maroon petals but is controlled. White midribs strongly anchor the petals. When searching the catalogs for new plants, I must admit that this name was a strong factor in my choice.
Elegant Candy was never selected for purchase here. A visit to a local one man breeding operation placed me in contact with a huge pot of an expensive and much desired plant. Its price was more than reasonable but when we returned home the pot's contents of three plants became obvious. One was the named plant while the other two were these. Strong ruffles and a vigorous growth habit contribute to my feelings of having purchased a bargain but a sense of having been slickered lingers.
Blueberry Candy was clearly chosen. Pale peach ruffled petals sharply contrast with the purple eyespot. This plant is well proportioned with the smaller flowers matching a mid-sized plant. Dreams of a large Daylily bed persist but deer relish their flower buds. A fenced large bed would look horrible and the deer would simply jump the fence to get to the buds. Urine sprinkled on the ground keeps the deer away but the desired garden would be close to the public road.
Indian Giver is the horrible name of this beautiful flower. It is offered for sale at $50.00 or more and may be well worth that price but I am slow to part with that much money. This was the third plant purchased with Elegant Candy. It has grown large enough to divide but I remain reluctant to hack apart a plant this beautiful. Here we have more white ruffled edges on purple petals.
Ivory Edges is a rather obvious name for this stunning flower. An exploding eyespot close to clearly defined ruffled edges makes a statement that can be easily seen from some distance away. More than three dozen Daylilies grow here and I sometimes wonder what will become of them when I am elsewhere. These plants hold their own against the weeds and would likely expand over a decade of no care.
Yellow Chiffon looks a little beat by mid afternoon on a cloudless hot July day. Many mail order businesses offer a free plant with orders. Usually these plants were unique enough to obtain varietal names but failed to gain wide acceptance. This plant is modest in size and the flowers fade early in the day. It arrived here hiding a horrible secret in its root mass. A never before seen sedge soon grew from the daylily root mass. We have been diligently weeding it out for years but it remains an ever present wandering pest. The triangular stem of that pest reminds us of the free plant with a secret that just keeps on giving.
Sunday, July 14, 2019
As a child of the fifties growing up in Newfield, N.Y., walking to school placed me close to sewage in the roadside ditches. In areas where only the moisture gathered, orange Daylilies grew in great numbers. Clever children that we were, they were named sewer lilies. As an adult gardener, I had no interest in placing sewer lilies among my coveted plants. Susan of Afton needed to clear out some of her plants and three different varieties came home with us. Their varietal names have long ago been forgotten but their mixed coloration made Daylilies worthy of a second look.
Destined To See was the first fancy lily purchased. The simpler structure of the single flowers resulted in their widespread presence at Stone Wall Garden. Ruffled edges and pleasing scent are considered necessary characteristics for new purchases. This plant has been divided once and if the new ground is ready next spring it will be divided again. Many winter hours were spend with plant catalogs considering which would be planted here and our first choice remains among the plants we truly treasure.
Aurora Raspberry displays the coveted characteristic of pie crust edging. It is hard to believe that this beautifully complex flower will last for only a single day. Many find the dead blossom remains prohibitively ugly and therefore do not grow these plants. We find a mid-morning walk among the flowers peaceful and snapping off the spent flowers is simply another reason to sample the scent and sight of newly opened flowers.
Molokai is perhaps the most vigorous of out many varieties. Planted in a bed that was taken back by the quack grass, Molokai fought the invaders and relished transplantation. Twice divided, the hardiness and clear bright yellow color make this a favorite here. Once again a ruffled edge completes a beautiful picture.
Chicago Arnie's Choice is another early purchase. Its hardiness alone makes it a candidate for division. Now we understand Susan's need to find new homes for plants that are overcrowding their allotted space. Several people have expressed their willingness to take our extra plants if we dig, divide and deliver them. Somehow working with plants that will remain here seems a better use of our time.
Saturday, July 13, 2019
We spent a great deal of time yesterday working on the garden down by the road. Few of the stones in the distant planting area were in place when we first arrived here. Our goal is to have walking paths so that one can safely walk among the plants with no risk of stepping on any treasures. Aside from the fallen sumac leaves, this ground looks interesting. The pit manure truck in the background was never intended to be part of the picture but our reality is that a truck like this one or a beat pickup truck is likely to be captured. From this vantage point we do not have a totally natural woodland garden.
A rather large stone lies in the newly defined planting area. I was able to move it by flipping it end over end. Now I cannot raise it. A hammer and chisel have opened the beginnings of a crack but I can no longer swing that sledge hammer endlessly. A return visit is planned to attempt to deepen the crack and split the stone in half. Then the stone will be flipped to its final resting place with the option of placing the two pieces one on top of the other.
Our method for removing highly invasive pasture grass is shown here. Thick layers of grass clippings are spread over the weeds. They easily penetrate the cover but the roots develop on the surface between the soil and the clippings. After a year or two passes it is not an impossible job to roll up the mat and the weeds leaving mostly clean soil behind. The area covered with chopped tree leaves was covered with weeds when we arrived. Becky did a masterful job of clearing this area. An occasional weed will appear but the plan is to place plants here next spring. With any luck the cleared area will expand this summer.
The poet Robert Frost wrote about the mystery created by a bend in the road. His words helped place these path stones. Despite my efforts to define smooth curves, it appears that creating straight lines is my default method.
The last glacier dumped a huge load of broken stones here. Some are pieces of nearby ridge sedimentary rock while others made a journey of some distance from the deeper sea to our north. This rock is unusually heavy for its size indicating the likely presence of limestone. Its moss grew here so it presents an image of both far away and nearby.
Our Wild Ginger is growing strongly in its new location. New growth is pushing outward. Here the plant will have the option of placing growth in the cracks between the stones making visible the usually hidden from view flowers. That will not happen quickly but we can be patient.
Most of the rocks visible in this photo started the day on the jumble of stones at the edge of the nearby field. Fallen down barbed wire fence and ground littered with stones and holes had to be crossed to gather these moss covered stones. Twenty-four round trips were safely made and these stones are now part of our garden. Great care was taken handling these stones since the bond holding moss to stone is easily broken. With any luck the new home will prove satisfactory and the moss will remain in place.