Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Stop What You're Doing And Come See This!

After heavy rain last night we began our day in the garden tying up plants that needed assistance. After that there were peas to pick and process. Mixed clouds and sun made it a lovely morning for weeding. We both stopped briefly to watch a group of turkey vultures circle over our heads. They came low enough to raise the hair on the back of my neck, and for Ed to remark that he didn't think he smelled that bad. We were weeding in seperate areas of the garden when Ed said, "Becky, Come here you have to see this."

This is what I saw, a large moth , perhaps 4 inches, in the grass right next to a "wild" area that Ed has begun to clear out , but has not yet reached. I seldom get a really good look at a moth. This one was soft and furry looking. The moth was not moving much , so we got the camera, and Ed took its picture. It was around 11:00 so I headed inside to work on lunch.

Later just after noon, Ed checked the moth again. The sunshine had reached the moth, and Ed was able to take this fantastic picture. With the lower wing in view identification of the moth was possible. It's a Polyphemus moth. My caterpillar book says rose is a possible food plant for this species. Perhaps this moth was among the leaf litter under the Rugosa Rose. Thank goodness Ed's bed clearing had not reached this far. We might have missed this thrilling opportunity.

After lunch when Ed went back to the garden, the moth was gone. We were happy he could fly away, but grateful for our chance to observe him so closely!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cardinal Flight School

It was an on and off rain day, so I had a chance to observe the garden from the window. A brilliant red male cardinal and his newly-fledged slender carbon copy of Mom were on the stone path by the clove currant bush. Dad fed junior as I watched. Next Dad flew up and sat on the post in front of the clove currant bush. Junior disappeared under the bush. I watched the bush quiver as the young cardinal struggled to get to Dad. As soon as he got there Dad promptly flew to the smoke bush. Junior hesitated, and then flapped his very best to arrive in the smoke bush where Dad was waiting. This time Dad fed the baby. I guess a reward is given for flying, but not for climbing. Almost immediately Dad flew to a garden post just a bit more distant. Again junior flew to catch up with Dad. This trip took them out of my line of sight, but I'm sure this is how they spent the day. Young birds have to grow up fast to survive. I don't know how long flight training lasts. This beautiful little cardinal seemed to be doing very well. I hope I get to see both of them them again.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

June is Busting Out...

New flowers are coming on all over the garden. When I left the catchfly growing where it self seeded next to the lady's mantle, I'm not sure I envisioned the hot pink and chartreuse that would come. Oh well , color in the garden is a good thing.

The weeds are growing too. This basil patch was in serious need of weeding. Ed did the job today along with the carrots and the new lettuce bed. We had the arugula from the overgrown spicy mesclun mix in an arugula and nectarine salad with toasted walnuts and raspberry vinagarette for lunch. YUM! Tonight for dinner some of that basil and the Oregon giant snow peas made for a lovely pasta primevera. Sometimes the garden can seem overwhelming, but its rewards are many. No one eats better than a gardener this time of year!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

New Butterfly

One might expect to find a gardener's best work in front of his house. Here a self planted sizeable patch of dill holds the corner of the planting bed in front of the house. This spring my suggestion that we clean up that area was rejected since the caterpillars of some butterfly ate dill. Recently we found several green, yellow, black and white caterpillars feasting on the untidy dill. This morning I found this newly hatched Eastern Black Swallowtail, Papilio polyxenes, on the stone ramp leading from the basement.

The butterfly was fortunate that I did not step on it. My habit is to walk with eyes fixed on the ground in front of me so that I do not step on the unexpected. Yesterday, my first step outside the basement door found a sizeable snake betwen my feet. It is amazing how long a person can hold themselves airborne. With my girlish scream still echoing from the hills, I quick stepped out of there. Equally frantic, the snake found an opening in the stone wall with its tail and backed out of sight.

Becky also had time to get a close look at the butterfly. Located near her dill patch makes it likely that she made food available for this former caterpillar. We were both in the area and saw the butterfly's first flight. It easily cleared the stone wall, flew across the lawn, turned to miss the trees and disappeared out of sight. I expect to always find a large patch of dill growing in front of the house.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mixed Lilies

It has been tough for lilies here for the last two years. Early heat to force the bulbs followed by hard freezes has taken it's toll on many.

This plant , purchased in a group of mixed lilies, is a survivor. Last year it had a single stalk and a few flowers. This year there are more stalks, and a quick count finds eight blooms with buds for many more to come. The rest of the plants in the mix have amounted to absolutely nothing. When compared to the 2" by 4" cage wire, you can see the blossoms are large.

The blossoms with shades of orange and tiny purple spots are scentless, but hummingbirds are drawn to them. It's the hardiness of this beautiful lily that really impresses. One might consider getting more of these lilies, but when you choose the slightly cheaper ,"pig-in-poke", mix, that option is not open to you. We will have to be happy with what we have, and hope their numbers continue to increase. Maybe in the future we will stick to named varieties. They do have their advantages!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Poppy Time

First thing this morning I spotted a male indigo bunting perched on the garden wall. Usually all we get to see is a fleeting glimpse of his beautiful irridescent blue somewhere in the trees. This time we got a good look. When he did fly he came even closer to the window. What a great way to start the day! It turned out to be a day with bands of heavy rain . Ed got to spend a fair amount of time in the garden, but anything that requires dry weather like drying catnip, thinning the beans, or mowing the grass will have to wait.

My pink poppies are beginning to bloom. I finally saw them in a catalog under the name P. laciniatum. I love these poppies enough to put up with their prolific self seeding. Here they are almost a cover crop.

These single poppies, and the slightly darker color than usual doubles, will have to be pulled. The double pink "Carnation poppies" that I love sometimes revert back to singles or throw a darker color. I try to get them pulled a soon as I see them to maintain the pink doubles. I had to get Ed to pull this big one. The entire clump came out at once and appeared to be one plant. I really dislike pulling something that looks as pretty this , but it has to be done.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fleeting Beauty

I've been keeping an eye on this Iris enstata flower. Here the tight bud is just beginning to show purple color.

As the bud begins to unfurl, the color has softened.

Soft purple color and intriguing patterning on the petals make this beauty a sight to behold

By evening the flowers petals have begun to curl. By tomorrow it's incredible beauty will be gone.

Thank goodness other flower buds are waiting in the wings to take center stage. Even though a single flower 's beauty is fleeting, this plant will continue to be gorgeous until all the buds are gone.

A daily garden tour is so necessary now. If you skip just one day you miss so much.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Patio Thyme

Becky's efforts planting tiny pieces of red creeping thyme are paying off. The far edge could use more plants but the rest of the patio has filled in nicely. Location is important in business and here. Sited at the west end of the house, the patio gets hand weeding when the heat of the sun drives Becky out of the garden. Fortunately the weeding was complete before the thyme flowered. Now the area is thick with bees.

There is still no cover to the top step. Several issues remain unsolved. A wooden deck would create a dandy den for skunks or other undesireable creatures. Who needs that right outside the door? Originally this door was served by field stone steps. A curve in the foundation wall suggested that the combination of frost and stones was caving in the wall. After the steps were removed I figured out the the foundation wall had been set with the curve in place. Nothing had moved.

Chemically treated green wood goes against my grain so the step remains uncovered. At this point I believe a field stone pillar in place of the wooden deck would make a better step. If that was done then perhaps the final grading would get some attention and we could actually use the thyme patio.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Weeding Stops Here

We have been working our way along the bed in front of the house, weeding and moving plants to other locations or to compost. Work was going fine. The curved wall was in sight. BANG! All work in this area came to a screeching halt.

This little guy and his brothers and sisters are to blame. Here, just like Sierra club member sitting in front of a bulldozer, black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars cause a work stoppage. Dill is one of the plants that is given lots of space here. I dry some for winter and use some fresh, but it's because I know dill draws those beautiful butterflies that I have so much trouble pulling it out. Flowers that attract butterflies are great, but the favorite caterpillar food dramatically increases our number of butterflies. Note to myself: Don't procrastinate, get that dill where you want it before the middle of June.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day Ed

A new wheelbarrow makes a nifty gift for any gardening Dad. It is especially nice if the tire on his old one mysteriously suffers a nighttime blow out after being pumped up the day before. It was the second tire for the old wheelbarrow. If the replacement tire had been made in Ohio it likely would have lasted longer than part of one season. Our choice was another questionable quality replacement tire or a new wheelbarrow. Ed even got to enjoy the fun of putting his new toy together.

This is the view from the garden bench in the evening. The setting sun has dropped below the pines placing the garden in shadow. As we were sitting there a large bird flew low over the garden. It was really working its wings fighting for some altitude. Soon it set its wings to glide and as it circled over us the white head and tail identified the bird as an eagle. We have never before seen an eagle start its flight. There is some difference between the large plank-like wings of an eagle soaring and the furiously pumping bent wings of an eagle beginning its flight.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cabbage and Rosemary?

The plants are almost all planted in the ground, Whew! When I got to this sixpack, I was expecting to find kohlrabi. I seldom see kohlrabi for sale. I haven't grown it in years, but this year I decided I wanted to plant some. Now that I 'm ready to plant, what I have is cabbage. Ed and I don't really eat cabbage much anymore. I have to decide if I want to take up garden space with cabbage. Clearly a mistake has been made. The tag clearly says CABBAGE!

Once is a mistake. Twice could be a trend. The sixpack of what we thought was lavender, was not lavender at all, but rosemary. We love rosemary, if fact since I lost my rosemary over the winter, we bought three new plants. We planted these six right next to two small lavenders. Wow, apart from the fragrance, they really do look alike, but again the tag clearly says ROSEMARY. What we will do with nine rosemary plants in the fall is anybody's guess. Another mistake has been made.

Several things are at play here. We do get just a bit excited in the spring when it's time to purchase new plants. We think we know what the plants we want look like. Of course the overwhelmingly likely reason is that we have not yet accepted the fact that we need our glasses to shop for plants. It makes it so we can actually read those tags.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wild Strawberries

Wild strawberries grow in abundance here. Their white blossoms are a welcome spring milestone. Our natives seem to prefer the fruit unripened as we seldom see a red wild strawberry. Turkeys are at the top of my likely to eat strawberries list. A solution is to grow cultivated berries under wire cages that are covered with plastic bird netting. The cultivated berries feed ants but there are enough undamaged berries left to provide us with fruit for breakfast.

When I was a village resident plotting my escape to a rural setting, winter reading filled much of my time. John Burroughs was my favorite author. His book "Pepacton" was the first volume that I purchased. The first essay in this book described his summer float down the East Branch of the Delaware River. Many of my summer hours were spent floating down sections of the Unadilla or Susquehanna Rivers. This seemed to form a connection between us. Burroughs wrote of being drawn up from the river and into a field by the aroma of ripe wild strawberries. His description of the pleasure of eating those berries with fat rich milk made a lasting impression in my mind.

Burroughs also described the thrill of silently floating toward two young ladies that had raised their skirts to wade about in the shallows. That of course is another story, and it has nothing to do with wild strawberries other than the close proximity that Burroughs described experiencing these two delights.

From a simple ripe wild strawberry I get not only a taste sensation, but a flood of memories of my time on the rivers, and a recollection of Burroughs' writing. That is quite a benefit from a simple berry. Wild strawberries taste much better than cultivated berries. Why have I never tried growing wild berries in the protection of the garden?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June 15: Bloom List

This Siberian Iris, Rikugi Sakura was outstanding today. The photo competition is getting tough. Some plants are fading and will not appear on the next list. Others are just beginning to bloom. Some things like the coral bells and the evening scented stock will be around all summer.

June 15 2010, Bloom list: Ingeborg's mallow, purple coneflower, morning glory, lemon finger bowl geranium, lemon verbena, bluets, bleeding heart, Jack in the pulpit, Robin's plantain, spiderwort, Dianthus,(all 5 kinds) , Valerian,coral bells, meadow sage, apricot Iris, Allium albopilosum, , Viola "Rebecca", Siberian Iris,(Butter and Sugar, Rikuga Sakura, and Lavender Lovliness) red creeping thyme,woolly thyme,lemon thyme, Wild thyme, snow in summer, blue-eyed grass, evening scented stock, German chamomile, nasturtiums, salad burnet, blue flag, yellow flag, sweet rocket, Elle's yellow rose,Jane's Pink Rugosa rose, Laurentia star flower, Ptilotus Joey , Gallardia,lady's mantle,Johnny jump ups,spotted lily,garden sage,Nicotiana,Stella D'oro lily,rose campion,catchfly,Peppermint stick zinnia, pink foxglove, baby's breath, Pyrythem daisy,peas, strawberries,sundrops, Anchusa, Achillia "Pretty Belinda",snapdragon, helitrope,and Amy's Amarylis.

Flowers still in bud are not listed, at least one open flower is required to make the list. It's getting to be a great time to sit on the garden bench and admire the garden. Even though the list of things to do in the garden is long, sitting on the bench is a must!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thyme For Weeding On A Rainy Day

Too bad the weeds still grow when the thyme is in bloom. On a sunny day the flowers are covered with many sorts of bees. On a rainy day however, the bees stay home and weeding can be done without all that buzzing and the risk of being stung. Early morning works too, bees sleep in until things warm up a bit. Today was raining on and off, so I took my chance to weed the red creeping thyme on the patio. I did leave one woolly thyme plant hoping to move it to a place where I want it later.

Yesterday when Amy and I were in the garden we discovered a new spotted fawn. He might have been born yesterday because he was small and unsteady. Mom was nowhere in sight. We were relieved when he tottered off into the pines. Today while I was working in the garden I was snorted at repeatedly. I guess Mom is still around and a bit miffed that I was occupying her space. Ed and I still have the idea that this is our garden.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Garden Patchwork

Things are beginning to bloom all over the garden. Ed is working very hard to get everything planted. I was delighted to see three bluebirds on top of the stone wall near where Ed was working. Bluebirds find the wall a convenient place to bash their caterpillars before they eat them. I tried to call Ed's attention to them, but even though they ignored him as he worked, they flew away as soon as our attention was directed at them.

These are our salad days. The spicy mesculn is ready to eat and we have lettuce a plenty. The strawberries are beginning to turn red. I've been taking the blossoms off the nasturtiums to put in the salads , even though the plants are small. I hope it will encourage their growth.

I spent some time trying to get a good photo of a tiger swallowtail. I followed him from the valerian to the coral bells and on to the catchfly and never did get a decent picture. I like taking pictures of stone walls and plants better. They don't fly away!

Since my computer is in the shop. I'm working with time limits using the computer at the library. I forgot my glasses today so please forgive any mistakes.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Beautiful Day With A Sad Goodbye

Today was a beautiful day to be outside in the garden. Moderate temperatures with a slight breeze, blue sky and fluffy white clouds made for a picture perfect gardening day. This Butter and Sugar Siberian Iris new last year had only one blossom this year, but it is spectacular.

There is much to do, weeding, planting mowing. Ed did some of everything. I mostly stuck to weeding. If you stayed near the fragrant Dianthus, you could barely notice the freshly spread manure on the hayfield of the neighboring farm. Maybe it's me, but I think manure smelled better before they started using the lagoon fermentation process.I'm not saying it smelled good, mind you, but better. It still comes with country living as part of the deal.

Today we did the depressing job of digging up the "tulip fire" infected tulip bulbs. We had lilies planted with them, and because they were damaged so severely from the frost, and looked decidedly unwell, we tossed them in the trash along with all the tulip bulbs that Ed could find. Some of the bulbs seemed to be gone. Clouds of small bugs seemed to be congregated under groud in the area of the tulip bulbs. I have no clue what they might be. It was a sad goodbye, but we are glad to have that job finished, Ed threw his gloves in the garbage can with the bulbs, and I wiped down his tools with antiseptic wipes.

Tired and a little sad, we both headed inside for dinner and a little down time. Tomorrow we will be back out there again.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Apricot and Orange

Last night and today we got rain and lots of it. Previous to this storm the moisture was only an inch into the soil. Under some of the more dense plants the ground was very dry. The wheelbarrow with stones in the bottom that Ed abandoned when the rain and lightening started has several inches of water in it. The newly planted seeds and transplants will benefit from this soaking. It's very wet, but I'm sure we can find something to do outside after lunch.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Blue Screen Of Death !

My computer is in a coma. It's prognosis is grim. Fortunately the local library gives me access to the blog. For now no pictures will appear, and posts may be more infrequent.

Everything is fine in the garden. Ed is planting and more things are blooming every day. Today the spiderwort is especially lovely.It is covered with those gorgeous deep blue flowers. Since the day is cloudy they are lasting beautifully.I think the blossoms habit of melting in the sun is the only downside to this plant.

The blue flag is also fantastic. The plants by the driveway are a sight to behold. Without the removal of last years leaves, they still look great and the foliage will stay nice all summer. In many ways it is a perfect plant.

The apricot iris and Oriental poppies look spectacular together. The colors are especially vibrant at sunset. We got a combination planting right for once. Of course something spent the night in the middle of the poppy plant so it looks just a bit flat.

We continue to enjoy salads. Garden lettuce, spinach and the spicy mesclun are ready to cut. Very soon we will stop cutting the asparagus and let it make its ferns. The drying of catnip and peppermint has begun. That' all for now. My time is up.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wall Flowers

This lemon verbena plant wintered over in the house and has been part of the in and out gang for months. The plant looked pathetic for a long while, but look at it now. It decided to bloom while waiting on the wall for it's turn to be planted in the garden. The tiny little flowers have the same lemon lollipop scent as the leaves of this plant. It is definitely worth the trouble to grow this plant here, even though it is always a challenge. Having lemon verbena leaves chopped in fresh fruit salad is a treat I'm unwilling to give up.

This P.crispum 'Minor' lemon scented geranium is a new spring arrival. It is destined for a larger pot, and a spot on the patio in front of the stone wall. Unwilling to wait , it also flowered while waiting on the stone wall. With it's strong lemon scent and tiny crisped leaves, this plant is often used to scent finger bowls at fancy dinner parties. It releases it's lovely scent when brushed against and when it is watered. I love my scented geraniums, but they don't always flower. This plant's beautiful pink flowers were a delightful surprise. It pays to flaunt it. This plant will definitely get Ed's attention his the next plant potting session.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June 1: Bloom List

"Mirror, mirror on the wall... It was hard to choose but this Siberian Iris, "Caesar's Brother" is really gorgeous.

If these Siberian iris hadn't been nibbled on slightly, they might have come out on top. Their color is stunning!

In an effort to improve our garden design, we decided to list the flowers in bloom in the Stone Wall Garden on the first and the 15th of the month. What good is it to plant things together thinking they will blend beautifully when they bloom at totally different times? Here in no particular order are the plants in bloom today: lemon finger bowl geranium, lemon verbena, bluets, bleeding heart, Jack in the pulpit,chives,Oriental Poppy, Robin's plantain, spiderwort, Dianthus, lavender mountain lily, morning glory, Valerian,coral bells, meadow sage,Iris, Allium albopilosum, Allium "Beau Regard" ( pathetic), lemon lily, Viola "Rebecca", Siberian Iris, red creeping thyme,woolly thyme, snow in summer, blue-eyed grass, evening scented stock, German chamomile, nasturtiums, salad burnet, blue flag, sweet rocket, Elle's rose, Laurentia star flower, Ptilotus Joey .