Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Different Point Of View

When visitors come here, walks in the garden are common. Amy and I took such a walk, and I gave her the camera. These are her photographs. A lovely bleeding heart flower is a nice place to start.

This bubble-like spider web was in the berry bushes just alongside the path. It was bustling with activity and a type of web that I've never seen before. We found it fascinating!

My mother's iris are lovely. It's nice to capture their fleeting beauty with the camera.

Snow in summer is a favorite flower of Amy's. It's white flowers and gray foliage are cooling in the summer. I wish we needed that cool feeling. Freeze /frost warnings are in the forecast for tonight. The last one gave us a bad feeling and I have been watching for this. We have been procrastinating and not replanting. Sometimes procrastination pays off! Today we hope the beans will stay underground. Ed will go out and cover the potatoes that are coming up with dirt. Plants will be chosen to be covered, but some things will just have to take it like it comes. If the warnings are accurate, tomorrow morning will bring frost in June. I suppose they might be wrong. If not, there's still hope for frost-free July and August.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Gifts For The Gardener

What gift could be more perfect for a gardener than new plants for his new shade garden. Wow! Amy presented Ed with three bloodroot and two twin flower plants. Bloodroot is a favorite wildflower that has given us some challenges in the past. This time we hope the new shade garden will be just the spot for it to thrive. Twin flower is a new plant for us. It's tiny, almond scented, twin flowers look like something a fairy might carry around during a dance in the garden. With the raised shade garden it's possible to sit on the wall and get down to sniff the lovely fragrance of these tiny beauties and still get up again.

After planting the plants Ed was off to the woods to get some forest floor to use for mulch. Let's hope the new arrivals like their accommodations!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ditch Weed

Most have likely seen this plant growing alongside of the road. Ours just appeared in the rubble next to a planting bed. I always felt that the flowers were special but who grows weeds. Research revealed that rocket arrived in this country as a garden flower with the early European settlers. It was a prized garden plant. A walk in the garden after dark revealed this plants sweet evening scent. Sweet rocket has all of the qualities any gardener could seek. It is hardy enough to make it on its own. Color ranges from white to pink to purple. Little fragrance is noticed during the daytime but the air is filled with its wonderful scent after dark. Sweet rocket will hold a prominent spot in our perennial border.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pink Poppy Proliferation Problems

I adore my double pink poppies. I can't imagine the garden without them. I always save seed just in case they don't come up on their own. In point of fact the disappearance of my beloved poppies is not the problem. This bed grew onions last year and is supposed to be planted with vegetables this year. That means in this bed my beautiful poppies are (Dare I say it?) WEEDS! Too much of a good thing is still too much. It's not easy to pull these plants. Difficult decisions have to be made where I want the poppies to grow. They have to be thinned. Choosing which plants get to live and which ones meet early compost is sometimes painful. Odds favor that this bed will be planted with good neighbors for some of the poppies. Parsley sounds like such a plant.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Frosted Again

In our defense the long range weather forecast predicted lows in the mid 40s for the next several days. Sunlight had been strong and the time seemed right. We have been nightly carrying the plants into the basement for weeks. Last night the plants were left outside. The frost came yet again. Only the tops of the tallest zinnias were frost damaged. Cut these flowers off and these plants can be planted.

One or two of these basil plants look alive. Destruction seems total for the heliotrope. One lesson learned this year is get to the nursery fast. Last year we spent precious time licking our frosted wounds. By the time we got to the nurseries others had purchased all of the replacement plants. We are out of here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dinner On The Patio

Today was a truly busy day. I visited the garden of a dear friend and exchanged a few plants. Ed worked in the garden all day and we planted some plants in the evening. It's very late but this unknown green-eyed spider eating a rather pretty, but completely unwelcome tent caterpillar is too cool to miss. I really wanted to find out what kind of spider he is. With his green eyes and gold markings I thought he would be easy to identify. It's a snap to find a picture of a spider whose name you know. The reverse process is much more difficult. Mostly I came up with adds for exterminators. Obviously this spider has some fine qualities, and as long as he stays outside he's welcome here. One less tent caterpillar is a very good beginning.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Hiding In Plain Sight

It's a rare treat to see a newborn fawn, and this one was born today. Ed was working in the back and happened by a doe cleaning her new baby. He came to get me. We grabbed the camera and climbed the hill wondering if the mother and fawn would be gone. When we first caught a glimpse of the baby, he saw us and tried to flee. His legs were way too wobbly for that so he went to plan B. That would be lie very still and flat and don't move. We could hear Mom in the brush nearby. She was snorting, stomping her feet and doing her very best to frighten us away. Honestly she's pretty scary!

We got just close enough to get a good look and a closer picture. Photo Op over we climbed back up the hill and out of sight. What a thrill! Of course we will no doubt see this fawn again. Mothers often bring their fawns to play on the short grass around the house and garden. Right now it's easy to forget how mad I get when they eat my plants. Anyway he deserves a break. It's his birthday!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Virgin Tiger Moth

Rocky uneven ground characterizes the old field that is our yard. To increase his chances of avoiding the rock that could throw him to the ground, Ed has developed a gait that has him looking at the ground in front of him. He misses much that happens in the sky but every now and then he sees something special in the grass. Today this caterpillar crossed his path. A short ride in a bucket moved it to the stone where a decent picture was possible. Contact dermatitis can follow touching the bristles so we never touched the caterpillar. Our identification is questionable as there are many different species of Grammia in our neck of the woods. Our captive looks like the model pictured in the guide. The moth is colorful and would be worth seeing.

Meadow sage is a favorite here. Little else is in bloom now. Buttercups are in flower in untended areas. A plan to move this weed into the garden near the meadow sage was presented today. Blue and yellow look good together. We will wait and see if he can lever the long taproot of the buttercup out of the stony field.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Just A Bit Rustic

It was time to trim the clematis and it became obvious that a new trellis of some kind was needed. I've seen lots of pictures of bent wood garden trellises. I decided to give it a try. Ed cut three locust saplings and a nice long length of wild grape vine. After soaking the grape vine in water it was pliable enough to weave back and forth on the locust poles.

It's rustic, but for my first bent wood project It'll do. More free natural materials are available. Maybe the scarlet runner beans will be next.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fringed Polygala, My Favorite Wildflower

Of all the wildflowers that grow here at the stone wall garden, I think Fringed Polygala, or Gaywings is my favorite. They bloom around the time of Mother's day depending on the weather. I never saw these tiny little orchids until we moved here. You have to watch carefully. They are very small and hard to spot, but when you do it's a real "Eureka!" moment. The funny thing is once you find one, if you stand in that place and look around you always see more. Why the first one is so much harder to see is a little bit of a mystery to me.

My friend Ingeborg always said: "If you want to improve your mood,don't take St. John's wort. Go look for it." It's too early in the year to look for St. John's wort, but looking for Fringed Polygala sure worked for me. OK the warmer weather didn't hurt any!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Frost Warning! I'm Not In The Mood !

Monday night we had a freeze. This morning when I got up the garden looked like this.I know it's to be expected here. Last year our last frost was on May 29. This is all normal, but I'M NOT IN THE MOOD!

Here you see the alliums and the lemon lilies this morning. Tonight the smallest stem is standing up , but the other two flower stalks are bent too far. Most of the plants will be fine although some of them look a little burned, much like myself. I love gardening here, but sometimes...ARGH !!!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Tale Of Two Lilies

Planning our garden just has not happened. We work on a find a place to stick this plant system. Plants always outnumber open spots. Here is the rare exception. Yellow and purple is a favorite color combination and the lemon lily was deliberately placed behind the Allium aflatunense. Now we know that the taller plants should be planted in back. Remember we are new at planned planting. Several bulbs were spaced along a crescent. The lily was tucked in behind. Bloom time is another issue. The alliums will likely be past when and if the lily blooms. More tuition has been paid and perhaps some learning has occurred.

Nearby lemon lilies occupy the end of a planting bed. It is now clear to us that these lily buds shrivel and die when frosted. Limited materials available for covering plants would likely have left these plants unprotected. Heat radiated by the stone wall protected the buds in the first picture. That wall is West facing and went into the cold night with enough stored heat to hold back the frost. Freeze warnings are posted for tonight. Temperatures are expected to drop into the 20's. We have covered what we can but expect to be hit hard. A year without lemon lily flowers awaits us. The leaves look OK so perhaps the plants can build themselves up and provide a grand display of blooms next year. Gardening builds character.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Potato Planting With Molasses

Our seed potatoes arrived from Ronniger Potato Farm early in May. June 1st is considered our frost safe date so we chose to hold our seed for two weeks before planting. A single layer of seed was placed in old vented plastic plant trays. These were put under the plant starting table in our living room. Good air circulation, warmth and indirect light moved the potatoes toward growing. When we unpacked the seed all of the eyes were small and tight. Ten days in the living room seems to have them actively growing. The eye sprouts look strong and compact. No yard long bleached wonders that have come from our room under the basement stairs.

Five foot wide planting beds require different methods. The potatoes have been planted and covered with soil. First hilling, or late frost, will fill the depressions bringing the soil surface level. Second hilling will be done in the conventional manner. Finding material for the third hilling is difficult. Mulch hay is usually applied. The fence is needed to keep out deer and woodchucks. Fence ends are tied in place. Sides will complete the job.

As recommended by Ronnigers, molasses mixed in water was sprinkled on the soil as it is in the picture. One cup of molasses and five gallons of water is the mix ratio. Beneficial soil microbes are supposed to flourish in soil treated this way. Less scab could be the result. We will watch and see. Treating only one side of the planting was discussed and rejected. No control group here. With chitting and a molasses bath both being tried for the first time how would we credit success? Let's just hope we get the promised "amazing results!"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rain On The Garden

Today we had rain for the entire day. It has been weeks since our last rainfall during the day. What little that has fallen came during the nights. The advantage to that is garden work is possible following the rain.

The drops collected by this garlic leaf point out both an advantage and a disadvantage to garlic leaf design. If the leaf was slightly more vertical, the collected water would have been directed to the root mass under the stem. That is a plus. More of the rainfall is placed where the plant can use it. As the plant matures the seal where the leaf joins the stem loosens. This part of New York State usually receives abundant thunder storms during July. Garlic is undertaking its drying down process just as massive amounts of rainfall strike the plants. The seal between the leaf and the stem weakens and moisture enters the stem of the plant. Mold flourishes under these conditions.

Last season half of the garlic crop endured a July thunder storm during harvest. Water actually ran out of inverted plants. A tan stain marked all of these bulbs. Some were usable, some rotted. The only solution that I can see is to buy portable hoop tunnel to cover the garlic as harvest time approaches. The more reasonable solution is to continue planting more that we need. Still that roof over my garlic does have its appeal.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Latest Frost

I wish I could say the last frost, but Sunday looks a bit iffy. My lovage plant was doing great but I guess the warm weather last week forced it just a little too much. Lovage is a herb with a flavor similar to celery. Its leaves add a celery-like flavor when added to a recipe near the end of cooking time. It is a perennial plant that comes back in the spring. You might find hollow lovage stems used as straws in your bloody Mary at a trendy New York City restaurant. Apparently those hollow stems don't like frost at all. They are not just droopy but bent in half. This plant will have to be cut back. I was unaware of its weakness. Today is a beautiful , warm and sunny day. The garden will remain uncovered tonight ready for tomorrow's predicted rain, but the plants in pots are coming back in the house.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Frost and Moonlight

When the moonlight streaming in the bedroom window nudged me awake before 5 AM,and I saw the morning star, I knew I would see frost this morning. With no wind and no cloud cover it was a sure thing. The sun is up now and the white is disappearing fast. We have a few things to uncover, but most of the plants that don't like frost are safe in the basement.

On the bright side it looks like it will be a beautiful day in the garden.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A New Wildflower, For Me Anyway!

I knew when I took the picture of this delicate looking wildflower that I had never seen it before. I looked in my new wildflower book with the great flower pictures, but it was my 1948 wildflower identification guide with the line drawings that gave me my answer. The co-joined twin leaves were the distinctive clue this time. The three basal leaves are similar in outline but are borne on separate stalks. Mitella diphylla or miterwort is the name of this one. The delicately fringed petals on the flowers are distinctive too, but you need magnification to see that. The flowers are tiny just 1/6 of an inch across. It's always a treat to see a new wildflower for the first time. It makes for a special day indeed!

We missed a frost last night, but just by a whisker. The condensation on the cars was liquid on the side surfaces, but frozen hard on the windshields.I know this since Ed was outside before 6 am. He believes that if frost is rinsed off the plant surfaces before sunlight strikes them damage can be avoided. Fact or fiction? I do not know if this is actually the case. The sun is shining so it should warm up quickly.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How Cool?

Two days ago the tulips were wide open just waiting for some great pollination action. Notice the especially brazen yellow and red flower the second from the right. It was a beautiful May day, perfect in fact.

Today the wind has changed. There's some blue sky but it's noon and the tulips are still unwilling to open so boldly. It's chilly and the FROST WARNING notices are out.

These red tulips don't seem to want to open today at all. I'm sure everybody will be closed up tight tonight. Ed is working outside. I'm in the house with all the tender plants in pots. I'll be going out to cut the asparagus that's up for tonight's dinner. It doesn't like frost. May cold snaps are expected here, but I sure hope the apple blossoms got to set their fruit.

It was a big surprise to me that my first hummingbird sighting of the year would happen on this cool day. It was a male ruby throat ( our only kind) sitting on the smoke bush next to the clove currant. Perhaps more exciting than that is watching papa bluebird and a newly fledged baby feeding in the garden.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Safe Behind Bars?

The two remaining dwarf ginseng plants now live under a cage. They share their cell with a stinking Benjamin, wood sorrel, Canada Mayflower, ferns and moss.I can only hope it will keep these two plants from being nipped off. I know caged wildflowers seems like an oxymoron, but we just have to try.

This picture shows the blossom of the medium size plant. The largest plant with 5 leaves per stem got nipped. This one has four leaves and the smallest three. A tiny bug is sipping nectar from a tiny white flower. The round ball of flowers is only the size of a marble.

The first Baltimore oriole was sighted today in the very top of an apple tree.They are so beautiful! I'm glad to see it, but it reminds me that my lilies will need some protection.Where did I put that bird netting?

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Agony of Defeat

Ed has been walking to the back woods daily hoping to get a picture of the dwarf ginseng in bloom. Instead of that this is the reality of the situation. After waiting so long to find this plant again, finding it nipped off like this was disturbing. The culprit's identity is unknown. A cage will be placed over what's left of the plant and the two smaller plants. Somehow a galvanized wire cage in the woods is a contradiction at some level. If the nipper is large , the cage will protect the plants from future harm. If he is small, our interference with nature will be ineffective. I can only hope that the stem with the remaining leaves, and the time the plant had with leaves will be enough to sustain the roots. Some wildflowers disappear completely when picked. I hope this is not one of those. When it comes to wildflowers it's best to leave them be. They have enough predators without adding humans to the list.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Isn't It Romantic?

The light is low, mist is in the air, the mood is set, and the turkey's are hot to trot. The goings on outside the living room window are like a singles' bar. Three males are doing their best to get the ladies attention.Turkey males gobble and strut with plumage erect, tail fanned, head ornaments swollen, and wings drooping with quills rattling. Not being a turkey I can't say who the most attractive Jake is. Who can say if it's the over all size, the length of time he can manage to keep his tail up and fanned,the brilliant red neck and blue head, or the sexy shudder that turns the trick? From a voyeur's point of view it's all fascinating stuff. This morning the ladies ignored the displays. Eyes to the ground, they just kept on eating their buggy breakfast.

We have had numerous encounters with turkeys here. One early Spring day several years ago Ed was walking up to the field that became our garden when two golden eagles flew low over his head. The eagles climbed and made another diving pass at a group of turkeys that had found safe shelter under a scrubby bush. Ed's presence ended the eagles attempt at a turkey lunch. Last Fall a clutch of late turkey babies lost their mother soon after they hatched. That night two babies fell from the top of stone wall leading into the basement. None of this clutch had any real chance at survival. They were born too late in the year.

We suspect that the turkeys have an impact on the number of trout lily blossoms found here. The lilies attract numerous insect pollinators. It is easy to see a turkey snapping off a blossom eating both the bug and the salad. Not willing to spend my days sitting in a blind, I will never see if this actually happens.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

On The Wild Side

A necessary trip in the car found us driving by our favorite wildflower hill. We were not disappointed. Countless white trilliums and a few red ones made an impressive display.This sharp-lobed hepatica plant was down by the road allowing a close up of its mottled leaves. The lovely pale lavender flowers are past, but the plant is still spectacular.

A patch of these violets caught my eye as we did our slow drive by. We stopped the car and both took a walk along the road to get a better look at these delicate little flowers. I don't know the name for this one. There are many wild violets and my reference books don't show them all.That pointed lower petal would seem to be rather distinctive.

Last but not least is a rather tall yellow violet. The hepatica leaves in the same picture show why we find this place so exciting. There are so many beautiful wildflowers all in the same place.We just have to go there sometimes.

Ribes Odoratum Indeed!

The clove currants are the star of the garden these days. No matter what you are doing in the garden the heady fragrance of these tiny little yellow flowers captures your attention.

The bumblebees are attracted to the plant, and it is frequently where I see my first hummingbird of the season. No hummingbirds have appeared yet, but the plants still have lots of buds yet to open.

On one of the plants I got a very brief glimpse of what I thought looked like a hummingbird moth. It was shaped a lot like a bumblebee, but had a very pointed rear end. I have never seen one like it before. It was gone in a flash. I came inside and checked in my caterpillar book . I think it could have been a snowberry clearwing. I keep watching hoping to see it again. If he doesn't come back maybe a hummingbird will stop by. In any event working in the general area of these flowers is a pleasure.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Shade Garden Grows

If you sit on the shade garden wall, you can see the flowers up close. Last year I learned that white trilliums turned pink as they aged, but I never realized how beautifully streaked they are. What a delight to get such an intimate look. A few plants have been moved into the bed before it is finished much like what happens when you move into a new house. Somehow things take a little longer, and projects get just a little bigger than the original plans .

Shade garden work moved to the top of Ed's to do list today. Plastic mulch and wood chips were placed around the outside edge of the wall. The first run of the lawn mower revealed that something needed to be done about the grass next to the wall. Stones waiting on the lawn needed to be moved. Placing them on the wall seemed to be the simplest solution. It was a great day for wall building. The weather was cool, cloudy and comfortable. Buds are opening on the locust tree. Leaves will follow quickly so our shade will be arriving soon making this a great place to work on a sunny day.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

White Tulips and Evening Scented Stock

I couldn't resist taking a picture of these beautiful white tulips. Originally they were a potted Mother's Day gift. The blooms are so perfect in spite of the fact that the deer trimmed the leaves so harshly. My new tulips are coming along now, and are safely caged to protect them from hungry browsers.

I'm delighted to see these tiny self seeded evening scented stock plants. You can see how small they are by comparing with the bunny berry in the picture. As soon as they get a little bigger I will move them to where I want them in the garden and pot up some for friends who drop by. These fragrant plants have small pink flowers and are not the neatest of plants, but tucked in among other flowers , they release their fantastic scent in the evening all summer long. I love them so much! I can't imagine the garden without them. Once established these self seed freely. Their greatest risk is the ruthless spring weeder.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

May Flowers Even Without April Showers

Around here May is the month when the garden begins to hum with activity. Yesterday was a busy gardening day. We talked about going driving by the wildflower hill, but it didn't happen. Ed did walk to the back to see if the dwarf ginseng flowers had opened. They were not open yet,but the spring beauties were ready for a picture.

Much of the day was spent in the garden planting seeds, weeding and inhaling the perfume of the clove currant bushes. The perennial plants are coming back now. We did lose a few things to winter kill. The weather was particularly cruel this year,but the pink poppies, sunflowers, dill, evening scented stock, and Ingeleborg's mallows are starting to come up. That means the soil has warmed. Unfortunately it has also been very dry. Last night's rain was so welcome . We might have gotten an inch. That's not nearly enough, but it's a start and all the plants look happier this morning because of it.

It's great to be back picking salad ingredients from the garden. The asparagus has started. Now the great garden meals begin! Ed just called me to see a gorgeous rosy breasted grosbeak in the locust tree. I'm headed out!