Monday, May 31, 2010

A Prickly Garden Visitor

It was just about dusk when Ed spotted what he, at first glance, thought was a skunk. "Look at the size of that skunk", he remarked. Amy was visiting, and we all hurried to the living room window to get a look at our garden visitor. Amy said " Dad, that's not a skunk!" By that time I had found my binoculars. What we were looking at was a very large black porcupine sporting a white collar and tail. I've read they can go up to 40 pounds. He was headed from west to east in a straight line at a steady pace. Amy managed to snap this picture, but by the time she could change to her other camera lens the porcupine had disappeared into the tall grass. It was great to be inside for this wildlife sighting. It will be interesting to see if we get another look at this porcupine. They are not supposed to wander far from their home.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What Could Be Better Than A Sunny Day In May?

Chalk up another hot, sunny day here at the Stonewall Garden. It feels so much like July that we can't help feeling we are behind in our planting. It's not true. Here planting on Memorial Day weekend is still just a little risky. Last year we had freeze in June, but this year's garden is moving ahead along with the weather. Elle's yellow roses came and went before I even got a chance to get a picture. We are trying to get plants in the ground. In Ed's beautifully amended soil things are dry and dusty. In places where the soil has only been cleared of stones, the dirt is hard as concrete. I had to water before I could dig the holes to plant the nasturtiums. The mowed area of the meadow where we garden is beginning to brown. It might be considered mean spirited by some to wish for rain on a holiday weekend and spoil the kiddie's fun, but it's a nice all day rain that could be better than a sunny day in May. In the meantime, we have our watering cans.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hot Stuff In The Garden

The past couple of days in the garden have been hot and dry. Some of the plants, new transplants or delicate specimens, are wilting like me. Other well established, and rooted plants are growing quickly . In this picture from front to back are: the Egyptian onions starting on their top set plants, sweet cicely flowering, and quickly forming it's licorice flavor seed, Baptisia australis just starting to show it's gorgeous blue flowers.

We have no pond or stream anywhere close to the garden so whatever water the garden gets is delivered by hand with a watering can. We have to use water from our well. We decided a long time ago to water by hand. The plants just have to adapt.There are no hoses here. Ed was out early this morning watering some of the new transplants in the shade garden. The plants in pots are being watered and are waiting to be transplanted. What we really could use is some rain, and it would be nice if wasn't a gully washer or accompanied by hail. Until then, the morning view of the garden will feature a nice green watering can cooling things off.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Butterfly Bush In Zone 4

I once read that if you want to attract butterflies to your garden the Buddelja davida or Butterfly bush is 1 through 10 on the list.Needless to say I have such a list. Here in zone 4, this plant is not happy. Our winters are just too cold. Over the years I have purchased quite a few plants. Some years they survive. Most years they don't. I finally discovered that a plant that self seeded here had a better chance of surviving the winter then a gorgeous plant purchased in the nursery.

Here in the Stonewall Garden the south facing bed of the stone square has become the chosen location for my butterfly bushes. A few years ago I purchased a bush, and planted it in the center of that bed. Although dead and gone this year, in the past this bush self seeded several plants. Their chosen place to grow was right next to the stone wall. I think the pictured plant is on its third year. Even in this special spot the bush has to be cut back in the spring to make room for new growth at the base.

When digging out poor dead "Mom", Ed discovered a small plant tucked under her dead branches. This evening, when it it cooler we will move it close to the stone wall where it's siblings seem to have survived so well. Sometimes your plants can teach you something if you just pay attention!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Amy's Amaryllis

Amy's Amaryllis is blooming, and she's not here. It's so beautiful everyone should see it, especially her. Summer seems to have arrived. Lots of watering weeding, planting need to be done.The garden is calling!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Potato Planting

Local wisdom supports planting potatoes when the dandelions bloom. Not to be fooled by the flowers near the base of the house, I waited for the dandelions to bloom out near the garden. Year after year my potatoes suffered from cold wet soil. Cut potatoes always rotted as did a significant number of whole seed. There had to be a better way. This year my seed potatoes arrived on the first of May after the dandelions had flowered. The potato eyes were tight and the flesh was solid. The picture shows their condition after two weeks in the living room. Indirect sunlight and relative warmth brought the potatoes to life. Mid May is a better time for planting here in zone 4. The cut potatoes were given an extra week indoors to heal their wounds.

A new planting area is under preparation near the start of the wilderness. Removing the sod and some of the stones worked well here for potatoes last year. Twenty-four hills of potatoes now occupy some of this new garden. A molasses water application was the only addition to the soil.

Peas follow potatoes in our crop rotation scheme. Despite my efforts to harvest every potato some always are left behind. This forgotten potato selected its time to grow. We will see if the last frost has already happened. The long range weather forecast indicates that this potato should be safe from frost. Is there a reason why all of my potatoes cannot be planted this way? If I leave some of this year's plants undisturbed until I have prepared next years planting area, then plant potatoes the same day that they are dug what will happen? The potato in this picture had such an experience and it is doing fine. Perhaps a dozen hills planted this way would be a fair test. Check back next year and see how it worked.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Three Friends In Search Of New Plants

It's an annual event for Jane , Carolyn and I to spend a day together, and take a trip to buy new plants. All three of us have a passion for herbs, flowers and vegetables. It was decided that we would visit The Green Thumb in Hamden NY first. It has been several years since we visited there. They have a wide range of plants, tropicals, annuals, perennials, water plants, vegetables, and herbs. We all stuck our noses in the gardenias and jasmines. Tropicals are fun to visit, but it's herbs and perennials we we hoping to purchase. I found sweet marjoram, and a cute little tricolor sage, but then I gave in to the fascination of something new and different.

This fuzzy new friend named Ptilotus Joey is from Australia. It should be a annual here. I hope it is a well behaved one. I can't help thinking of Kudzu when I buy a plant I know nothing about. After wandering through every greenhouse, we checked out and each loaded a box of plants into the car.

I set the GPS and we were off on back roads to Stony Mountain Farms, ,our next stop. We had never been to this place . The people there were helpful and friendly. They had two greenhouses with nice looking plants. It was there that I found the Laurentia, Beth's Blue. This is another plant that is new to me. I have no idea where it comes from, but the blue flowers with the pure white under side were just too much for me.I had to have it! Since their vegetables looked nice, I also bought a six pack of broccoli, and one of kohlrabi. It has been years since I grew kohlrabi. I remember it fondly, Ed has a different memory. We shall see. If nothing else it's a great weird looking plant to intrigue visitors to the garden. The three of us added to the plants in the back of the car and headed off to our last stop.
Country Grown Perennials is really quite close to Jane's. We have all driven by the sign many times and never stopped. This time we made the turn. This is an outstanding place to buy perennials. They have a large selection of plants and over 20 years of experience. We enjoyed the beautiful view there while we ate our lunch. Best of all, as busy as they were, they took the time to answer all of our questions. Why would anyone shop for perennial plants at "Big Box" when they can go to a place like this one?

It took a bit of rearranging to fit the rest of our plants into the back of the car, but Carolyn is talented. We didn't even have to put the back seat down. Tired, hot and happy we headed for home with our treasures. As always gardening friends, interesting places, and new plants make for a great day!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hummingbird Hello!

A welcome rainy day brought a lovely surprise. A hummingbird stopped and hovered just outside the living room window. What a terrific first hummingbird sighting . It was almost as if he just stopped to say, "Hello,I'm back".

The whole garden is happy with the rain. Now we begin our days of salads from the garden. We can glide right past salad greens in the grocery store with glee. The new lettuce and our fall planted spinach are beginning to produce. The house salad here requires a tour of the garden. I pick a few lettuce leaves , some spinach,a little Good King Henry,chives, perhaps some sweet cicely or chervil, Johnny jump up flowers or violets, a sprig of French tarragon, some salad burnett. With a salad like that a little raspberry vinaigrette is all we need for dressing. Now that's a garden salad! But something is missing, I need to plant my arugula. I'll move that to the top of the list for tomorrow.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The In And Out Gang

Last night I checked the weather, and no frost warnings were posted for our area. We were both tired. I was ready to leave some plants outside overnight. " We have to do it sometime" I said. Ed was not convinced, so he carried almost all of the plants back inside. We didn't cover the Angelica or the lilies either. Sure enough when I woke up this morning we had frost. It was light and somewhat spotty, but it was frost just the same. I pulled on my coat, and went out to wash the frost off those who needed it.

Ed was right! He was so right! He was completely ...! The in and out gang and I am grateful.

It turned out to be a beautiful day. As it happens most of the plants with growth that would be bothered by this morning's light frost had already been zapped! We will get to eat the asparagus tonight even though it had a bit of a chill.

These are the days, when we have so much to do, that the garden seems huge. On the other hand when we search for places to add plants, it seems small. When you step back and view it from the west with nothing but the tree covered ridge in the background, it seems tiny. Everything is different depending on your point of view.

So what about tonight gang, in or out?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Who Stays And Who Goes?

These tulips have been in the garden for more than 15 years. I bought them in Buffalo when Amy was in college, and I'm a little sentimental about them. The leaves look good, but I think I see a little brown on the flower. I've already begun digging up fire infected tulips, and disposing of them in the trash. I wonder if these old friends will have to go?

Ed's garlic needs tending. Even though he planted buckwheat here last summer my pink poppies are coming up like crazy. Although we did not plant a poppy cover crop, this looks like one. Wind blown poppy seed overcame our defenses. Usually the garlic beds are nearly weedless. That is not the case this year.

Growing great garlic in upstate New York faces weather challenges. Early summer thunder storms bring heavy rain when the garlic should be drying down. Last summer brought rain nearly every day. Bulbs had visible water inside the wrappers at harvest. Despite our best efforts only one half of the planted bulbs have produced plants. None of our eighteen varieties failed completely but three have produced few plants. Harvest is nearly sixty days away. We hope for rain and warmth now and a mostly clear July.

I had a very fleeting sighting of a male Indigo bunting today. What an iridescent blue he is. His mate must be all a twitter. I know he does it for me!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frost Really Burns My... LILIES!

We had a really hard frost/freeze overnight. It's upsetting, watching beautiful plants get damaged. Here in upstate New York frost is possible right up until the end of May. Given our usual weather, almost all of the plants can handle it. The truth is, the fault is not with the frost, it lies with those sultry April days that encouraged the plants to grow too fast too early. Plants whose normal growth period is after the time of frost got slammed hard this year! Global Warming causes frost damage. It sounds stupid, but it's not.

What gardener can look at this frost burned lily and not feel pain? These lilies planted among the Mount Hood daffodils presented a problem for us to protect them. Inverted trash cans among the daffodils crush the daffodil foliage. There are also more lilies to protect than there are trash cans. Sometimes our garden is a bit too big!

These Lilies spent the night under a plastic container with a bottle of warm water. This morning there was a skin of ice in the bottle, but the lilies made the night. As water changes from liquid to solid it gives off heat. There is not much heat in a juice bottle filled with water but we had to try something.

My Angelica gigas also made out well with it's upturned garbage can and bottle of water. Purple Angelica is a plant that I know is not suited to zone 4. I was so delighted that it made the winter. The prospect of having those big purple flower heads is thrilling! I know I'm taking a chance trying to grow this plant, but I would be so disappointed to lose it now that it's nearly mid May, and the warm weather is so close.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Many of our plants spend the night and cold days in the relative warmth of the basement. Today definitely qualified as a cold day and these plants remained inside. Imagine my surprise when this newly opened wood lily flower was discovered. By waiting to remove the bud for the good of the plant we got to see a new flower. Plant and blossom spent Mother's Day on the kitchen counter. The flower will be removed and the plant returned to the basement to wait for warmer weather and its move to a permanent location.

Wild fringed polygala, Polygala paucifolia, is our traditional Mother's Day flower. Extreme cold temperatures today kept this flower tightly closed. Freeze warnings are out for tonight. We will likely experience heavy loses of flowers and fruit. Checking the condition of the polygala will be on tomorrow's must do list.

We have been unable to find a commercial source for this plant. 36 plants were found in the back woods today. Their numbers seem to be dropping in the wild. Bringing a plant into the garden is under consideration. Mrs. William Starr Dana describes polygala as having long underground shoots. Woods soil is usually a tightly interwoven mat of various roots. Add to that our stony ground and moving this plant sounds like a recipe for disaster. A single small cluster was found today growing at the edge of a movable flat stone. When our weather settles, peeking under that flat stone sounds like a place to start. Impossible to move is the most likely outcome. If success is not possible, then we will leave the plant unharmed.

As a footnote, Mrs. William Starr Dana described polygala's underground shoots as bearing cleistogamous flowers. This term is totally new to us. We will look for the concealed fertile flower when the flat stone is moved.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Arrival Of The Wood Lilies

The arrival of our three wood lilies was a cause for celebration. We have been looking for wood lilies for many years. Now we have them. It was a pleasure to receive a box of plants that were so perfectly packed. Our new arrivals were securely placed in a long thin box made for shipping plants. The horizontal placement of the plants and the care taken to insure the containment of the planting medium resulted in safe shipment. High Country Gardens came in way ahead of everyone else in the careful packaging department.

We are still getting frosts, one is expected tonight, so the wood lilies were placed in larger pots, and have joined the growing outside during the day and back in the basement at night brigade. It was a pleasant surprise to see flower buds on these lily plants, but I know in my heart that these buds should be removed. The plants would be better off if I did that. Why do I find it so difficult?

Ed did remove the flower from one of the plants. It was partially open, but I put it in water anyway. Even this early flower shows the exquisite beauty of the blossoms of this plant. Perhaps I will go do the right thing and remove the rest of the blossoms. It's more important to give the plant a good start. If I put the flower buds in water I might get to enjoy them anyway.

Both the quality of the plants and their careful preparation for shipment has us looking at High Country Garden's catalog for next year's order. We have absolutely no reservations about ordering from them again.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Stonewall Garden News

We had a light frost overnight. My shooting stars are beautiful, but some critter, chipmunk or squirrel, seems to be eating them.
Ed brought home this nice little clump of Bluets from Steve and Elaine's. They are a favorite of mine.
The yellow Clintonia or blue bead lily that we planted last year is in flower.

I just received some news from Horticulture magazine. They are having a garden photo contest with a $1000 prize. Here is the link: The contest deadline is June 1. Wiseacre and Sunita take note ! There are so many bloggers who take fabulous photos, I wanted all of you to know.

The other news is that Plants and Stones turns into a pumpkin on June 21. After that Horticulture will have a new 2010 Summer Class of Bloggers. Be sure to check it out. It could include anyone. I'm living proof of that! Being on that Horticulture best blogs list has been a thrill for me. I feel very much like Cinderella. I still plan to have a ball at the Bloggers' convention in Buffal10 in July. Most likely I'll leave my glass slippers at home, I'd just as soon not lose them!

Monday, May 3, 2010

FIRE In The Garden?

It's so much nicer to post pictures of beautiful flowers like this Trillium. Much of the time if we treat our plants well, give them the soil, water, and planting conditions they like, everything is , well, rosy. I try to do this, and would be the first to admit that I don't know a whole lot about plant disease. Like the ostrich with his head in the sand , I avoid the plant disease section of my gardening books.It's are way too scary. With page after page of dreadful diseases, I find it too depressing to read. I prefer to think my healthy plants will avoid all these mysterious plagues.

But conditions are not always perfect. As you can see occasionally my plants look sick.Sadly my tulips drove me to the dreaded section on plant disorders. As near as I can tell they have tulip fire, a Botrytis fungus. So what can be done? When the rain stops, I will head out with my nippers and Clorox wipes and get rid of the sick looking plants.They are to be burned or banished to the landfill. Some of the flowers look pretty, but probably the best choice is to destroy the bulbs, and either remove and change the soil or never plant tulips in that spot again. I think for me Boytrytis is a four letter word. I just hope it ends with the tulips!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Weeding Thyme. Planting Too.

Ed started the morning working on the latest plant delivery. Having arrived in a somewhat tumbled condition, these plants needed immediate attention. Set upright and watered they had time in indirect light. Today they were repotted destined to spend the next frost filled month outside on the stone wall days and in the basement nights. I headed outside early, and spent the morning weeding. Eventually it got hot enough to send me looking for a shady spot to weed. We don't have much shade here, but the patio on the west end of the house is shaded mornings. What I want to grow in the spaces between the stones on this patio is red creeping thyme. This moss obviously has other ideas.

With persistence, and my reading glasses, I weeded out the moss, rescuing some tiny thyme plants in the process. This weeding project is just getting started,weeding this patio will be my sunny morning project for awhile. As noon approached my shade disappeared. Just as I was heading into the house for lunch, the mail arrived. Today's delivery included two boxes. Ed's potatoes arrived from Ronnigers. They look terrific! The other box was from McClure and Zimmerman. Most of those plants have already been placed in the shade garden. What a joy it is to have the planting space ready and waiting when the plants arrive! It should always be that way I know, but in the middle of winter, surrounded by gorgeous plant catalogs, we frequently lose our heads. Somehow we think when May arrives we will be ready. Ready or not, May is here and plants are arriving. Gardening in May is so full of possibilities!

More Pictures By Amy

Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginica

Star Flower, Trientalis, borealis
Wood Sorrel, Oxalis montana

Funny Fuzzy Fern, I don't know about ferns, but this one was definitely worth a picture!

Stinking Benjamin, Trillium erectum

Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum

Canada Mayflower, Maianthemum canadense
Another fern, I don't know anything about this one either!