Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Few Late Bloomers

It's getting late, really late, but there is still time for a single pink poppy. The rest went to seed weeks if not months ago .
Most of the gloriosa daisies are dried up and brown. This one is gorgeous! Several of the plants that should bloom next year are giving it a go now. Will they bloom again next season?

One remaining flower stem on the Stella d'oro lilies is blooming.

This mallow is looking great. You might say their timing is off. Perhaps these particular blooms have a big ego and wanted to be noticed, and so they were!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ed was So Right!

This spring when I dug out the shriveled remains of this chrysanthemum, I was positive it was history. One small piece of root showed a tiny bit of green. I was ready to toss it on the compost, but Ed potted it up confident that it would grow. It's a good thing I didn't bet the farm on that one. He was so right! There it is healthy and blooming. It's so nice to see flowers now as most of the garden is going to seed. Planted in good soil and with a well established root system, this mum has a real chance at another comeback!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On a Gray Day , You Can See...

It's a gray and rainy day here today. I'm not complaining, we need the rain and it is wonderfully warm. Ed and I drove up on the hill to check on some trees that are among the first to change color every year . It's beginning! You can see the beauty to come. Fall is a spectacular time to be in Upstate New York!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Starting Over

This bed is next to the meadow that we mow with the lawnmower. I would hesitate to call it lawn. It's quack grass, crab grass,yarrow,thyme , bed straw, speedwell and dandelions. Yesterday Ed dug the invaders out of this bed and replanted new divisions of Robin's Plantain ,wood betony and and agrimony.

The job was chosen because it has been so dry here. The loose dry dirt made pulling the roots of the quack grass out of the plant crowns possible. Many buckets of weeds and leftover plants went to the compost. Today's rain was perfect for the new divisions . They're off to a nice new start.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Composted Broccoli

Back in the spring the broccoli plants were set out in their newly prepared bed with their neat little cutworm collars. The best looking plants are always chosen and the straggly ones are set aside and saved in case something happens to the chosen plants. After that it's kind of out of sight out of mind. The extras get watered sometimes, but in the end they look even worse and finally end up in the compost. I'm pathetic when it comes to doing this and in this case I guess I put the plants along the edge and covered their roots with compost.

I clearly misjudged this plant. Now at the end of the season, in spite of the treatment it received, this plant has produced broccoli. You can't keep a good plant down! I will cut it and use it in a stir fry with pride.

This broccoli plant doesn't even have those ordinary green caterpillars. This Banded Tussock Moth caterpillar is working on its leaves. I always love to get a shot of a new caterpillar. He's really doing a number on that broccoli leaf. Yes, I left him there.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Plant Identification the Hard Way

How is it after all these years I have never noticed the gorgeous fall color of the stems of this plant? What is this plant anyway? It's tall, taller than me in fact. It's definitely a weed. This time of year it has dark purple berries. As a boy my dad used the berries to make ink in the attic and left a very permanent stain on the ceiling below.The berries and roots are poisonous. In the spring, mom used to boil the green shoots in three changes of water and then cook them. (None for me thanks!!!) Up until the year 2000, a company named Allen's used to can the stuff.

So how about it, can you identify this plant without seeing the flowers, the berries or the leaves?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tight Squeeze

When I posted "Breaking and Entering " back on August 27, I never thought I would get a chance for these pictures. Here it is almost a month later, the closed gentian is still blooming and Voila! This bumblebee is on his way in.

Here is the same bumblebee backing out. You can see from the size of the opening in the still blue flower exactly how tight that squeeze is.

This picture is a different bee. There was much wriggling and buzzing going on while this one was in the flower. I was totally surprised to see that this bee turned around inside and came out head first. Who ever thought that you could sit and watch flowers and see anything so cool?

Roses are Red, Violets are Invasive

I used to love violets. Why not? They are such a welcome spring flower. They are so pretty, so dainty, so violet. The flowers are a fabulous addition to salads. Even the leaves are good to eat.

However, right now I'm suffering with way too much of a good thing! Take a close look in the upper right of the picture. Violets produce seeds in the fall!

Behold the hidden truth about violets. Unlike the pretty purple spring blooms, these flowers at the base of the plant in the fall are meant for just one thing. They are into seed production on a grand scale. Apparently fall is the optimum time for a violet seed, because by spring you will be looking at a green carpet of tiny violet plants. Now you have been warned. That pretty violet that pops up in your garden bed is a WILD flower. Dig it up and put it where the neighborhood is tough. It is up to the competition!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Impossible Deadline

I'm a hopeless sucker for Moon flowers. The huge white trumpets that open in the evening and release their exotic scent fascinate me. Here in zone 5 planting moon flowers is a little like buying a lottery ticket. Last year I was a winner. I got to gaze out my window and see those beautiful white blooms in the moonlight. I got to sit on the garden bench and inhale that sweet aroma. This year I'm afraid the deadline will not be met. As you can see the bud is there but tiny. According to the current weather forecast, we might have a week. I don't think the plant can manage it. I doubt if this disappointment will stop me. When I see Moon flowers in the nursery I can't resist them. I'm always sure next year will be better!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chrysanthemum Weather

As is often the case here, the weather report has changed. We are now looking at some sunny days and warmer nights. It's chrysanthemum weather. If we are lucky we might get a week or two! That's very nice since some of my mums are just budding now. This Clara Curtis has been beautiful for some time. We got it early this spring and it has had all summer to settle in. I have high hopes that it will winter over. Most often the cupcake looking mums sold around here in the fall are totally root bound and have absolutely no chance to make it through our winter. Clara is planted on the south side of one of the stone walls so I like her chances.

Yesterday was a delightful day in the garden. Ed dug the last of the potatoes and some carrots. I worked at cleaning up some gone- to- seed plants and weeds. We both pondered where we will plant the bulbs we ordered early in the season. One package has already arrived. Another will be here any day now. Optimism has its rewards! As is usually the case we have ordered more that we have space ready to plant.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Out and In Plants

Every weather forecast has the word frost in it now. My bay trees are safely secured in their sunny spot in the front hallway. The rest of the chosen tender perennials are being carried out during the day and brought in at night. All too soon I'll have to get the table set up in front of my south facing window because like the bays, these plants will be staying inside. Rosemary, lemon verbena, rose geranium, peppermint geranium, marjoram, parsley, society garlic, sweet bay and lemon grass will be moving indoors. For now they are part of my exercise program. Carry the pots out to get some sun when it's warm and carry them back in to avoid Jack Frost at night.

Strawberries in September

I have to say these Ever Bearing strawberries from Miller Nursery are a wonderful addition to the garden. They produce berries during the regular season when the other varieties do, but then they continue to produce a few berries throughout the summer into fall. What a fabulous treat to have fresh garden strawberries on my breakfast cereal this morning . You'll have to excuse me now. I'm hungry!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Snakes and Stonewalls

Ed usually does his very best to make his walls tight. This wall was raised rapidly as we needed the certificate of occupancy for the house. Big gaps mean penthouse accommodations for critters. This is the curved wall coming out of the basement and I just happened to see a garter snake stick his head out of the wall. Usually I scream, but I saw this one through the window before I went outside. I did the brave thing and went to get the camera. When I got back one little garter snake was not what I found. Instead it was a writhing knot of snakes. I bravely moved in to get a picture. The snakes tried their best to get back in the small, one- at- a- time hole, but ended up slithering up along the edge of the ramp, across the patio and into the flowerbed in front of the house. I'm quite sure they went back to their safe spot in the wall after I was gone. So how many snakes are there? Four, enough to give me the willies just writing this post!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Pet Peppermint Geranium

If you are unfamiliar with scented geraniums, let me tell you about this one. It's big fuzzy leaves have a wonderful peppermint fragrance. The scent is released whenever the plant is touched or watered. For a plant, it makes a very nice pet. Of course no pet is perfect and this plant is no exception. Here in upstate NY, it needs to be brought inside before frost. Some years when we have our gardening act together, we take cuttings and bring those in. This year is not one of those years and so a big pot will be necessary. It's growth is compact, but it is not a small plant.
(Picture a German Shepard not a St. Bernard.) It's time to move that job up on the list.

I'm pretty attached to this particular plant. I bought it on a trip to Caprilands back in 1993 when I was totally enthralled with herbs. I am pleased to see that Adelma Simmon's place is being restored. She signed the book I bought"all Garden Joys and Herbal Magic" as I'm sure she did everyone's. Yes! This plant is special!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Broccoli Revival

This morning the weather was perfect for gardening. Cool , partly sunny, and breezy enough to blow most of the bugs away. I had to get out there . We have had great broccoli this year. I even put some in the freezer. Left alone those little green buds we like to eat, develop into this mess. It looked like a good place to start.

This morning I trimmed the plants, removed any yucky looking leaves, picked up all the debris under the plants, and pulled the weeds.

One thing I noticed about this year's broccoli was the absence of cabbage worms. Any organic gardener is familiar with those little green worms that turn beige when they are steamed. The other thing I noticed was that the great majority of weeds around the broccoli were catnip. Coincidence...I wonder? There was no shortage of the white butterflies here this year. Next year we plan to plant the broccoli where the catnip is growing.

This broccoli is ready to eat. If the side shoots are kept cut, the broccoli will still be around even after we have had some frost.

The first flock of geese flew over heading south this morning. The yellow shafted flickers are back in the yard. Best of all the Northern Harrier landed and perched right on the ridge of the house roof.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hot Stuff

The Thai hot peppers are getting red. It will soon be time to get these picked and dried. It's been raining here for several days. We haven't had violent storms just clouds and rain. Still it makes sense to me to wait for a sunny day to bring in something you want to dry.

I'm certainly not complaining about the rain. The new lettuce and spinach love this rain, and the perennials need it too. The bugs are another matter. I don't enjoy being part of the food chain anyway, but this time of year it's downright irritating. Insect demise is definitely one of the things that softens the blow when the frost comes. The basil will be gone , but so will those rotten black bugs and mosquitoes!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunflowers Are For the Birds

There's lots of activity around the sunflowers now. The seed heads have begun to form and the goldfinches are delighted. It's still the awkward time when the hummingbirds are working the remaining blooms. Hummingbirds hate to share so there is a lot of squabbling going on. It's silly really, since the hummingbirds want the nectar and the goldfinches want the seed. Still a bird's turf is a bird's turf and pecking orders must be followed. It's so much fun to watch. I manages to catch this female goldfinch. Sorry it wasn't a male . Their colors are so much more exciting. This fun will go on until the seed heads are empty. Black capped chickadees usually join the group, but I haven't seen them just yet.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Delicious, Fragrant, Lemon Verbena

The lemon verbena has had a very good year. The tiny little plant that I looked so hard for in the spring is now a small bush. It has even flowered. Many places you will find lemon verbena labeled an annual. It's actually a tender perennial that is better at attracting white flies than any yellow sticky strip you ever saw. Nevertheless it is time to cut it back and dig it up to bring in the house. The lure of fresh lemon verbena on fruit salad or for tea is too strong to give up easily. As long as it looks good it will stay upstairs. Some years it makes it there . Some years it gets banished to the basement. There it does its dead stick imitation until spring. Sometimes the dead stick sprouts new leaves. Sometimes the dead stick is DEAD, ends up in the compost, and I search the nurseries for new lemon verbenas in the spring. No matter which way it goes this delicious tasting, fantastic smelling, herb is well worth the effort!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Buckwheat Bedcovers

Preparations are underway for next year's garden. Three stages of buckwheat are visible here. Peas grew in the near bed this year. The peas were followed by buckwheat. When row composting has done its job, this bed will be prepared for Fall planted garlic. The second and third beds grew garlic this year. Here the buckwheat got a later start. These beds will be planted with potatoes next year. The composted remains of the buckwheat will be turned under before freeze up.

The positive effects of the buckwheat are a mystery to me. These beds will be practically weed free next year. How does this happen? Then there is the green manure issue. Since the plant grew from this soil, how can its decomposition result in a net nutrient gain? All that I added was the seed.

Then there are the bees. These flowers are clearly out of season. They are covered with bees of several kinds. I have to work among the bees to pull the plants. No stings yet! The bees just continue to work the flowers that I place on the ground. This is something like teaching eighth graders. A calm confident manner alarms no one. I do my work. They do their work. I swat at nothing buzzing around my head. I don't bother the bees either.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fall Flowers and Patchy Frost

I love these fall flowers. Around here we have golden rod in many places . There is a magnificent yellow glow all around. The gorgeous purple of the New England asters is less prevalent, but still the combination brings joy to my heart. We are working on increasing the asters by moving them into the garden. I have learned by observation that the deer seek out the aster plants for eating.

As much as I know these flowers signal fall, the words "patchy frost" in last night's weather forecast came as a shock to me. While it is true we are not in the most frost prone area, it's too close for comfort. I put on a jacket, turned on the porch lights and went out in the dark to bring in my sweet bays. In my experience they can be touchy and sometimes just a whisper of frost is enough to make them drop dead. It's not worth the chance.

The rest of the week's temperatures look better but the warning has been sounded. Procrastination has to stop. The time is now to get in the rest of the harvest taken care of. This year's garden is winding down . It's an ending for sure, but it's also the beginning of the glorious fall season .

Down the Garden Path

Idle hands are the devil's tools. Many times I heard my father say that when I was a child. Now I find that any garden activity has measurable health benefits for me. Here my day in the garden is nearly over and the final activity is a little path work.

The board separating the path and the garden bed will soon be removed. The bed and the path must stay unmixed. The stones next to the board are hand placed following the rules of stone wall building. They have a slight tip toward the path. Each stone rests on two stones beneath it. If this is done carefully the stones will not mix with the soil.

The source of this stone is the new planting bed under development. Here the glacier left more stone than dirt. A shovel and sifting screen are the tools of choice. This land was farmed for more than one hundred years. Many of the large stones I find have deep scratches across their surface from repeated plow strikes. The smaller stones have been broken with flat surfaces remaining. The six inch deep stone paths are filled with mixed waste then covered with selected flat stones. This creates a surface that is pleasing to both the eye and the foot. The only cost is my labor. The time invested quiets the mind and builds defined forearms.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


This yellow gloriosa daisy stands out so boldly in front of the bed of purple slavia. It's an eye catcher, even looking out the window from the house. I planted the sage. It's one of my very favorite annuals, because I love the color, and because it blooms all summer. The gloriosa came up by itself and I must say it couldn't have picked a better spot.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pull It, Pull It NOW !

Here we have purslane in flower. I've tried to learn to eat this weed. One of "Wildman" Steve Brill's favorites, it is supposed to be so good for you. The sad truth is I don't like it. It's too bad because it self seeds and every little piece of the plant can make a new plant. It grows so well here. So I keep pulling purslane, confident that I'll never get rid of it all. If I wake up some morning and think"You know I'm really hungry for purslane", I know I'll be able to find some. Maybe I should taste it again. Maybe I'll like it this time. Yuck, no way... Pull it!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Borer Wars:A Losing Battle

The casualties are mounting. The acorn squash...GONE. The Hubbard squash...GONE. Some small pumpkins managed to survive. The yellow squash and zucchini are struggling. We are still getting a few, but it's tough and now powdery mildew has joined on the side of the enemy.

The butternut squash are the heroes this year. True to the promises of the seed catalogs, they seem to be borer resistant. We will regroup for a new onslaught in the spring. We have all winter to prepare.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Sultry Wind from the South

A hot wind has been blowing from the south all day today. Perfect weather for the grand opening of this lovely red hibiscus. The wind was strong enough that it was nearly as hard to take this picture as it is to take a picture of a butterfly. The darn thing just wouldn't sit still.

The truth is things here are beginning to dry up. Some of the plants are beginning to look terminal. Rain will be welcome. Nice gentle rain is best, but we have to take what comes. Gardeners complain but they know that's how it is.

Friday, September 5, 2008

What is that Plant?

When I first saw the leaves of this plant growing out of the compost, I wondered "What is that plant? It almost looks like a sweet potato vine." Every time I passed by I wondered, but identifying a plant with just the leaves is tough prospect at best. Finally the flower appeared and of course it looks like a morning glory. I dug out my wildflower book and read through the morning glory entries. I was comforted to see that sweet potatoes are in the same family. I was not completely on the wrong track. It turns out to be ivy-leaved morning glory. There was no photo for the entry in my book so I went to Google Images to confirm my identification. Got it!

Having never seen this plant here before, I can't help wondering how it got to my compost. Perhaps a bird dropped it. Who knows? This is a plant listed in the wildflower book with the words" troublesome weed" in the description. It's cute, but it apparently has a dark side. Perhaps the compost is the right place for it.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Peter Piper Picked a Peck...

In my case the peppers are not pickled, and I picked a five gallon bucket full. ( How much is a peck again?) I have to say the peppers have had a fabulous year. You can see from the picture that our ground is very dry. It's been quite awhile since it rained here, and our extremely well drained beds are drying out. Today was the day to pick peppers and get them in the freezer. I even got to freeze a bag of red peppers. Some of the pepper plants have given up. Others are going strong and will continue blossoming till frost. Ed will weed and water them and replace the fence to give them the best chance we can.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Well-behaved Curly Chives

The curly chives are blooming now. I don't know if they are always this late. I've never noticed.

I'm sure it's because this plant so pretty from early spring on, that the flowers are just the icing on the cake. The plant has curly leaves about a quarter of an inch wide. As time goes by they grow into a beautiful swirl, forming a cushion of green foliage. It's a low plant perfect for a spot in the front of a bed so it can show off. It looks great all summer. This clump is getting big enough that I need to think about dividing it. It is still round and flowering beautifully, but it is filling up its allotted space. I've read that the leaves have a strong onion flavor. I couldn't say. To me this plant is just too pretty to eat.

Which Way Is Up?

Here are some beautiful annual asters standing straight and tall! They look spectacular!

These asters are beautiful too, but they have fallen and they can't get up. It always amazes me how quickly a fallen plant will turn and head for the sky. One can't dawdle when tying up plants that have been knocked over. In this case I missed the boat completely. The plant sent flower stems upward all along the fallen stalk. In perennials this can be handy for layering a plant, but when it happens to an annual, you get something that looks like this. Still, I have to admire the way plants keep heading upward no matter what.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Psychedelic Potatoes

These Purple Viking potatoes are almost too pretty to eat. The beautiful pink and purple skins are thin when newly dug, and while washing them I rubbed through to their white flesh inside. There is just enough time for a photo op and then these potatoes are headed for the pot. With their pink and purple skins they will make a delicious and colorful addition to dinner. You can't use potatoes for a centerpiece anyway, they need to be stored in the dark!

Monday, September 1, 2008

It's a Watermelon !

Here's our baby with the leaves shriveled, but the stem is still green. We are waiting and watching like expectant parents. Finally the stem browned so we picked it. This watermelon was ready for harvest and just in time for Amy's Labor day visit. At 8 pounds 8 ounces, and 12 inches, our baby didn't quite come up to the seed catalog promises of 24 inches and 30 to 35 pounds. But this is upstate New York not Georgia or South Carolina, so we are delighted with our success.

With red juicy flesh and lots of real seeds, it sure looks like watermelon. I chopped up the flesh, removed the seeds, and added chopped lemon verbena. I have to say it was a heavenly treat.

I wanted seeds and I got them. By my count I have over 300 watermelon seeds. They are spread out and drying on paper towels. I guess I won't be planting all of those, but the watermelons will definitely be back next year!