Monday, June 30, 2008


I really thought I would have to wait for next year to see flowers on this foxglove. I bought two. One is flowering. The other is not. Biennials can be a mystery. The chartreuse flowers in the picture are lady's mantle.

There are few truly poisonous plants in my garden, but digitalis is one of them. There was a time in my plant collection days that I thought I wanted a poison plant garden, but I decided against it. This plant got to stay because it is gorgeous and it goes well in the back of the bed next to the stone wall.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"French Weed?"

My German friend Ingeborg calls this plant French weed. She claims that Napoleon brought this plant to Germany. If he did, he wasn't very nice! I've been pulling this one out since I was a child weeding in Grandmother's garden in Pennsylvania. As far as I know it grows everywhere. Getting this one before it can set seed is a noble goal. It pops up everywhere and is amazing at hiding among your desirable plants.

Most times when a gardener walks around in the garden a handful of weeds is collected. One could never walk past this one and not pull it. Sooner or later a garden stroll ends up at the compost pile. Caught in time this nasty weed can turn into something much better in its next life. Someone asked me once if I believed in reincarnation. I hesitated and said, "I'm not sure, but I definitely believe in composting!"

Saturday, June 28, 2008

First Zucchini Blossom

The first zucchini blossom opened yesterday. It's the beginning of what I hope will be an avalanche of squash. I want enough so that I can have stuffed blossoms a couple of times.

Something is definitely missing from this picture. Usually one would be hard put to take a picture of a squash blossom without having a honey bee in the shot. This year I have seen bees, but not the oh-so-familiar honey bee. But someone has been there because the little squash are growing and without pollination that won't happen.

Last night we heard fireworks from the little town up the valley. We went out to look, but the hills were in the way of the fireworks. What we did see was the most amazing display of fireflies. I never remember there being so many of them here.

This morning I picked strawberries for breakfast, lettuce for lunch and snow peas for dinner. The bluebirds were in the garden so it was quite the thrill. It is cloudy so it was a great day for weeding. Some of the plants were being crowded by my volunteers that come up from seed. I pulled some of the dill and laid it out to dry and cut back the catnip and stripped it from its stems to dry. It gave the striped mallow some breathing room.

The leaves are turning and there is thunder in the air. Time to get in the tools!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Evening Scented Stock

Evening scented stock or Matthiola longipetala subsp. Bicornus is a half-hardy annual whose tiny four-petaled white and lavender flowers open at dusk. Not the tidiest of plants, they are best placed behind showier specimens.

However, these rather modest unassuming flowers have a wonderful secret.  It's an amazing fragrance that wafts on the breeze in the evening.  It's obviously meant to attract some night flying pollinator. They make an evening visit to the garden bench a real delight.

I was first told about these flowers by the Colonel.  He remarked that his mother grew them outside his bedroom window when he was a boy.  I was intrigued.  I searched and finally found the seed.  As sometimes happens I had difficulty getting them started.  Now they come up from seed and weeding is carefully done watching all the while for these little plants. To me their fragrance makes them so special that they should be tucked somewhere in every garden.

Oh Boy, Oh Boy, Snow Peas

Fresh snow peas are one of my seasonal favorites and they are nearly ready. We grow Oregon Giants. Our favorite recipe is Sesame Baked Tofu With Snow Peas and Almonds from the Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden cookbook. It's one of our June/July special treats.

Yes, it is a tofu recipe, one of the very best! If you are not a tofu fan the meal is almost as good made with chicken. The combination of grated fresh ginger root, sesame oil and rice vinegar creates an unusual taste that must be repeated. I'm sure there are other great recipes for snow peas, but my attempts to serve anything else are met with expressions of disappointment. I better check my supply of ingredients because snow pea season starts tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Purple Lupine

How interesting these flowers are the way they bloom from the bottom to the top of the flower stalk. The individual flowers are quite unusual in shape. The second plant had one of those direct hail hit setbacks that broke off the flower stalk. As you can see the plant is not to be deterred, but is sending up two flower stalks. The entire plant is smaller; after all it had to begin again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Borer Wars

We have planted squash here for more than a decade. Only the first year's crop was undamaged by the squash vine borer. Since then the harvest has gone mostly to the insect. Not one to give up easily, I am still trying to win this one. The first line of defense is this tunnel of insect barrier. The zucchini, yellow summer squash, acorn squash, butternut squash, and the pumpkin seeds were all carefully planted and then covered to ward off attack from the air. The squash were to remain covered until the plants were large. The hail storm put a lot of holes in that plan, but the squash were protected in their tunnel. Not even a single leaf suffered a hail strike.

The freshly uncovered squash plants were weeded and mulched with straw.

So far the squash bed is looking great! Ed has further plans to outwit these nasty insects. He planted golden Hubbard squash, supposedly the borer's favorite, in a different area of the garden. These plants, started much later than the others, are small and tender and we hope irresistible. With any luck these plants will show the leaf wilt that signals the invasion of the larva while the main crop goes to us.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Ingeborg's Mallow

I've tried to plan a garden. I've seen detailed drawings in magazines so I know people do it. Somehow that just doesn't work for me. I combine a where can I stick it approach with where did it plant itself method to plan my garden.

Who can resist the gift of a beautiful plant from a friend? I can't and so I bring them home like stray puppies and find a place to plant them somewhere. Ingeborg gave me this mallow years ago. I did like I always do, I put it in one of Ed's beautifully prepared beds where I could find an open spot.

Gardening friends always have extra plants. Perennials need to be divided. Plants self-seed. Face it, procreation is a plant's favorite activity. Remember the "birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees"? Weeding is a bit of a treasure hunt here. Just the other day I found a sweet Annie. It's not a favorite of mine so I potted it for Jane who really loves it, and will deliver it to her today.

Ingeborg's mallow is one of my treasured plants that pop up in unexpected places. It needs to be moved early as it has a long taproot. I'm always glad to see it. One must be on the lookout during early weeding. The plant must be seen and recognized if it is to be moved rather than composted. Listed as Malva sylvestris in most books, it is an annual here. It comes up from seed, blooms the first year and the original plant does not come back. This is my first bloom of many. In fact there are still plants that should be thinned out.

Note how well the hail damaged leaf has healed. It is torn but still green.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Blue Eyed Grass

This is a wild flower sometimes found in the lawn. It likes Ed's nice garden soil and is doing well. Not an easy get for the photographer, this plant keeps its flowers closed tight in the morning and closes them up early in the evening. I had to make several tries to get this picture. I was always too early or too late in the day. These little blue beauties have been blooming for some time. The little green balls are seed pods. It has spread into a lovely patch. Since I never did find my perennial flax this year, the blue eyed grass will do just fine.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bloom Where You're Planted

I wonder just how long ago it was that this lemon lily was composted? It is way down at the base of the pile. Not willing to take no for an answer, it is blooming anyway. Some plants like some people are more persistent than others. You have to admire their spirit.

So there you have it, a fragrant, brilliant yellow flower in a less than perfect setting. Some of my carefully tended specimens should look so beautiful!

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Spider in a Bay Tree

It's a long winter for the bay trees in the house. I'm always glad to get them outside for the summer. Being extremely sensitive to the cold they are the last plants to go outside. Bay trees do so much better out in the sunlight.

A small yellow spider has taken up residence in one of them. The underside of the spider is what you can see. You can just barely see the superfine threads of her web. It shows up best where there are dark spaces between the stones in the wall. That tiny white dot on the right is something caught in the web. She is from all appearances, planning to have a large family there. Bays are troubled with scale and maybe the spiders will be a good thing. I haven't got the heart to evict the family anyway. I will keep an eye on them. If I need a bay leaf, I'll get it from the other tree.

Since we have been having rain, the bluebirds are hanging around the garden. It's always a thrill to see them, perching on posts in the garden or sitting on the roof of the house. A garden is a peaceful place, but if you watch there's always a lot going on.

Perfume on the Breeze

If you are not familiar with dianthus, I have to say they are delightful flowers. These lacy beauties were planted from seed last year. We had a few blossoms then but this year they have outdone themselves. The aroma of these flowers floats on the breeze making working anywhere in the area a delight. I wish you could get a whiff!

We are hoping to divide them and keep them going. I have a special interest in fragrant flowers. I look for old varieties that still retain their perfume. It's so disappointing to have a rose or carnation or any flower that no longer has its fragrance. They look pretty, but something important is missing.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pruned by Experts

Back in January when the deer "pruned" this rose campion, ( Search; rose campion) I never believed the plant would turn out like this. Look at that nice compact shape. In this case my deer friends did some very nice work. If I could get them to work consistently it would be sweet. After all, they work for room and board, and don't complain at all. On the other hand they seem to want to pick and choose the plants to be trimmed. I guess teaching them topiary is out of the question. I just need to sharpen my pruners and get on with it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Salad Days

It was cool last night, almost too cool. Today we had some gentle rain, no lightning, no thunder, no fierce wind, just showers. It was wonderful.

The lettuce is in seventh heaven. It is crispy and fresh and gorgeous. It was a pleasure to go out right before dinner to pick the makings for our dinner salad. I like to mix the lettuce with some spinach from the bed next door. After that I get a little more exotic. Some lemon basil, chives, Johnny-jump-up blossoms, tarragon, and sweet marjoram get added to the lettuce and spinach. With all those flavors in the salad, a simple dressing is all that is needed. A raspberry vinaigrette is very nice.

These young lettuce plants will keep us in salads for some time. We have seeds planted for their replacements. Our salad days are here!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blue Clematis

I think I'll let this picture of my blue clematis speak for itself. The plant is covered with blossoms and is a joy to behold. It is the cheeriest of greetings when I come home.

NYBG Alliums

I bought these alliums on a trip to the New York Botanical Gardens. They have been a favorite of mine ever since. I was concerned this year. The buds looked decidedly unwell after that last hard frost, but I worried for nothing. They are like big round balls of lavender stars. The stems may be a little shorter than usual, but the flowers are fine. They are Allium albopilosum. I found them for the first time in a catalog from John Scheepers,Inc. I ordered some more to plant this fall.

I always cut these around the fourth of July when they are beginning to fade, and put red white and blue streamers on them. As a dried arrangement they look like fireworks so perfect for the 4th, but for now I'll enjoy them in the garden and think about where to plant 10 new bulbs.

Monday, June 16, 2008

No More Asparagus

The asparagus bed
The caged strawberries
The swallowtail caterpillar on the dill

We have stopped cutting asparagus. It's time to get the bed weeded, the soil amended and let the plants send up their ferns. It's the first short season vegetable to finish. Now there's spinach to freeze and strawberries to pick. Mint, dill and catnip to dry. The lettuce is ready for use. The peas are blossoming. The potatoes are coming up. The scapes have to come off the garlic. There are plenty of weeds to pull and spent flowers to deadhead. New flowers are opening every day. It's a time of wondrous excitement for a gardener with so much to do.

But this morning we have rain! No watering cans are necessary today. The whole garden is getting a good soaking. Everything will wait. The spinach and lettuce will be crisper, the strawberries will be juicier and the swallowtail caterpillars will have all day to munch on the dill. The weeds will be a little bigger, but they won't go anywhere. A rainy day for a gardener is a lot like a snow day for teachers and kids, a glorious unexpected day off.

As we sat on the bench last evening, a male hummingbird buzzed right past my left ear on his way to the catch fly. A dragonfly flew over. The wind wafted the fragrance of the evening scented stock our way. Later, after we settled into bed we watched the fireflies put on their quiet country fireworks display out the bedroom window.

The rain, although a beautiful soaking one, stopped and the sun came out. We in effect got a two hour delay. So I got outside to take some pictures, froze half of the spinach and the ripe strawberries. Like the old days of newspapers this is the late edition of this post.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Garden of Friends

This apricot colored iris was given to me by my next door neighbor Liz before we moved here. I was lucky to get this picture because the hailstorm was devastating to these flowers.

Elle's yellow rugosa roses have the wonderful rose fragrance that we all remember. I always watch for thorns and bees  when I stop to smell these roses.

These Siberian iris came from Jane. They didn't do much for me at first, but
I finally found a spot where they are happy. This year they are gorgeous!

An old friend of my mother's, Thelma H. gave me this yellow sedum. It is a ground cover in the true sense of the word. It's also one of those plants that I have to weed out, and it pains me every time. No wonder, just look at that color.

Plants from gardening friends are truly the gift that keeps on giving! Who could be unhappy with that?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Thyme Spillover

Just when you think plants will stay where you put them, they flow over the edge of the patio and into the adjacent bed. This is one of woolly thyme's favorite tricks. It's a fabulous plant for stone patios or walkways and gets a few tiny pink flowers here and there. It stands up well to traffic. I must admit, I prefer more of the stones showing, but over time they have been totally covered. Hmm... redo the stone patio? I think I'll put it on the bottom of the list for now.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Half- a- Day lily

Before the weather turned ugly on Tuesday I was going to photograph two lovely lemon lilies and what was left of my lavender alliums. Had they bloomed at the same time like I hoped, it would have been spectacular. As you can see the day lilies were late and the alliums have gone past.

But the two lilies took hits from the hail. One was on the ground. This one took a glancing blow but blooms on. The garden is full of casualties and survivors of the blitz. Anything that got a direct hit is, well, compost. Some of the larger leaves have round holes or cracks. The plants look ragged but will survive. The peas are tangled.

The row cover over the squash is now Swiss cheese. It did protect the squash plants from direct hits, but will be no help in keeping out the squash borers unless it is replaced.

In the end we had more misses than hits. I'm grateful for that.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Oh Hail !

Tuesday afternoon, what started out to be a thunder storm turned wild in a hurry. Ed was outside and felt the sting of the hail. It looks a little like an asteroid bombardment in a sci-fi movie doesn't it? The hail would bounce perhaps 18" when it hit the grass. Here in the house it was like being inside a popcorn popper. What a racket! I don't know how long it lasted, but it seemed like forever.

Ed went out in the rain to retrieve some hail stones for me to photograph. I didn't want to get my camera wet. (Yes, he's a prince, but he's taken!) It was still hot so they melted fast.

After the rain stopped I went out and took this picture of the hail on the patio. It was amazing.

The shapes of the ice were quite interesting. This one had an interesting design with clear and opaque areas. Very soon another storm blew in. The electricity went out. We had one of those frustrating evenings off the grid, fooling with the generator. The power came back on about 10:00. The internet was off until Wednesday afternoon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

First Pink Poppy

This is my first pink poppy for the year. My son gave me a free packet of poppy seeds some time ago. They are not perennial, but they do self-seed, and every year I watch for these poppies to come up. So far this year I have only one plant. I'll have to pay attention, watch for the seed pods to ripen, and plant the seeds in a good spot. This is one of my sentimental favorites that I don't want to lose. It's not what they are, but where I got them that is important.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Snow In Summer

It's another hot and sunny day and lots of the plants are a bit droopy. I feel that way myself. I really prefer a partly cloudy day and cooler temperatures if I'm going to spend a lot of time in the garden.

It's a perfect day to feature snow in summer. I've always loved this plant. It's a creeper with soft looking gray-green leaves and white flowers. It stands up to the hot sun and still looks cool and comfortable like a southern belle in her white dress and hat.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Aftermath of the Frost

This is an elegant blue black iris given to me by my friend Jane. The frost was more than unkind to the buds on this plant. Far from the magnificent blossom the plant usually produces, this flower gets points from me for even opening. The weather lately has been like one of those fast elevators that goes up and down so quickly that it makes you feel sick. From 28 to 93+ in just ten days. The plant will survive and the flower stem is headed for the compost. It is a disappointment. However, with every gardener hope springs eternal, and I will look forward to the beautiful blossoms on this plant next year.

Pernicious Weed

We had some rain, the sun is shining, it's hot and the plants are taking off. The oriental poppies, iris, blue flag, alliums, rugosa roses, dame's rocket, and other plants are coming into bloom.

And the weeds, well stand back because they are doing their thing. I wanted to say a few words about the lacy leaf weed in the center of this picture. It is the worst, a really evil plant! It makes people sick, and it looks so innocent with its little insignificant flowers. It is of course ragweed. This plant is one of my sworn enemies. I pull it out every time I see it. If you can get it before it flowers with that nasty pollen you've won. If it gets a chance to go to seed, you lose.

There was a lot of it here when we came. I've made progress, but as you can see the rotten things still lurk here. This one lasted just long enough to have its picture taken. It's compost now.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Secret Pond

We finally had some rain and now it's nice. It's a perfect time to walk the path back to see the pond. There used to be some open water but that was before. Before I purchased a "tropical" waterlily that was guaranteed not to spread, and to die if not brought in for the winter. The water garden in question was having a going out of business sale, but I was still clueless. So I didn't bring it in, and it didn't die. It loves it here in Upstate New York. On the bright side it has greatly increased the frog population in the pond.

The yellow flag below was planted by us back at the water's edge. It looks gorgeous, but is spreading. I knew purple loose strife was a no-no, but I was not aware of yellow flag. So far it has been our experience when we try to plant things by the pond, either they grow like crazy or they die out because every thing else back there grows like crazy.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fresh Chamomile Tea

Today's the day for that first cup of fresh chamomile tea. I'll just pop off enough of the flowers to make about a tablespoonful. That will give me a pot of tea with a nice fruity aroma. When they talk about relaxing over a cup of tea, this is the stuff. I highly recommend it. I think I'll take my tea out and sit on the bench in the garden. The singing birds will enhance the mood.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Blackberrry Blossoms

A wonderful fragrance wafts on the breeze these days. The blackberries are blossoming and this year there are a lot of them. A great crop of berries would be nice. I pick some, but it's the animals who really rely on blackberries as a food source. They say if your honey bees make it to the opening of the blackberry blossoms, they will make the year. Sadly ours did not. When Ed checked the hive, the bees were gone and the ants had carried off the remaining honey. We seldom harvest honey, but we will miss their pollination efforts in the garden. A "to bee or not to bee" decision will have to be made.

Blackberries are one of those plants that takes over naturally in a meadow if it is not grazed or mowed. The brier thickets are formidable. The deer change their path and walk around them, but the rabbits call them home. Like so many plants we keep them where we want them to grow and try to control the rest.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Before the Rain

There he goes. That tiny little turquoise dot in the middle of the picture is Ed on his riding mower. The picture is taken from the porch outside the kitchen. It give you some idea of the scale of things here. ( Images in this photograph may be nearer than they appear!) He's off to mow the path so we can walk all around the back meadow without wading through the tall grass.

Don't you wonder just where that path goes? It drops down through the dead ice sink. We call it the meditation spot because it is quiet and still, since it is sheltered from the wind. From there, it goes up the hill to the back meadow that overlooks the pond. It's wonderful back there. The pond, although small, has all kinds of dragonflies, salamanders and frogs to see. Behind the pond is a bit of woods. At night in the summer, the fireflies are like fireworks. When the milkweed blooms there are butterflies galore. From there, the path goes around the perimeter of the high meadow. There is a 360 degree panoramic view of the surrounding area up there.

We love it here. It's a natural playground for someone who loves plants and stones. We got some much needed rain overnight, but if it clears off we'll check out that newly mowed path.

It's later in the day and I have this to add. We saw a Baltimore Oriole and the first tiger swallowtail butterfly of the season in the garden.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Temporary Stone Pile

Here you have one of Ed's temporary stone walls. He just has to lay them up into a wall. Throwing them into a pile is not his style. This wall has had some stones taken to use in another wall somewhere. It has left some of the stones cantilevered in an interesting way. You would think they would tumble down, but the weight of the rock on top, combined with the way stones fit so closely together makes it stay where it is. Gravity is the force that holds a stone wall together. Of course it is also the force that makes a wall fall down.

I love this wall and don't like to think of it as temporary. But, I have it for now and sometimes temporary can be pretty permanent.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Sweet Cicely

This is a beautiful plant. It's a perennial, has a neat habit, lacy fern like foliage and fragrant flowers. That's a lot, but with this plant there is more.

The leaves chopped and added to a strawberry rhubarb pie reduce the amount of sugar needed.

The young green seeds have a delightful licorice flavor. I frequently sample them while working in the garden. Chopped seeds turn an plain unsugared fruit salad into a gourmet treat. Garnish it with the flowers and leaves and you have a work of art! I always freeze some seeds in a zip lock bag for late summer and winter fruit salads.

Later the seeds become woody and then turn dark brown. They are no longer good to eat, but have been used for furniture polish.

This plant grows well from fresh seed planted in the fall. As with many plants that self-seed well, you can have the same success by planting the seeds at that same time. If you can't get fresh seed from a gardening friend, you need to look for a plant.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Yellow Iris

Iris plants start small, perhaps with a single rhizome and expand from there. A happy clump of iris will get so crowded that it stops blooming altogether. They have to be divided. Because of this iris are passed between gardening friends. All of my iris have a history.

These gorgeous yellow iris were given to me by Jo Ann. She got them from a friend as well. It's a wonderful thing to be able to look at something so beautiful and cheerful and have it make you think a dear friend.

Finally some rain fell on the garden. A few cages blew over in the wind, but on the whole the garden is much happier!