Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fields of Gold

Yesterday and today we are getting some much needed rain, but before the rain started, the weather here was glorious. It was a wonderful day to wander around with the camera. I was stunned by the beauty of the goldenrod in the meadow. We have perhaps five types of goldenrod growing here. It makes for a very long period of bloom. While some kinds bloomed in late August and early September and have gone to seed , others are blooming now. It gives the Monarch butterflies a very long window of opportunity to feed on their way South.

This area is back by the pond and tends to be wet. The ground is uneven with many large rocks and areas that collect standing water when it rains. The goldenrod thrives here.

The high meadow is basically gravel. It is always well drained and dry. Goldenrod thrives here as well. As a food plant for the Monarchs it is perfect. It is there for them no matter what the weather and no matter when they hatch out. On this particular day many bright shiny new Monarch were sighted. Some were feeding on the goldenrod while others flew up high, catching the wind, and heading South.

Milkweed that has been mowed and still has green leaves continues to be munched on by Monarch caterpillars. The butterflies lay their eggs over a long period to insure maximum chance for survival. I admit the child in me is still fascinated with butterflies. To me they are magical. I'm so happy we have a such a great place for them here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Moonflowers And Tuberose

Much to my surprise with the warmer weather the moonflowers have been blooming for several evenings. Night before last it was warm in the garden and moonlight reflected on the white flowers. It is interesting that the four moonflowers that opened just after sundown were wilted by 4:00 AM. Last night was somewhat cooler and cloudy. With the overcast skies the three flowers that opened last night were still open and gorgeous into the afternoon. What an unexpected thrill and pleasure to have these big fragrant blossoms to enjoy!

At long last the tuberose buds have begun to open. The other night when it was so cold and the tuberose were safely inside on the landing, even the closed buds were releasing a perfume literally so heavy that you could smell it in the basement , but not upstairs in the house. It's a sweet familiar scent. My first thought was of some bath soap from my distant memory. The fragrance is a little like lily of the valley, but different. The flowers are waxy and have little scent during the day, but when the sun goes down, WOW!

Since the weather has warmed, and because the aroma from just a couple of open blossoms is powerful, the tuberose is back outside in the garden. The air is filled with fragrance meant to entice night-flying pollinators. It's easy to see why these flowers were so popular back when bathing was an uncommon occurrence. This plant fills the garden with fragrance.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Chicken Of The Tree?

This interesting looking fungus is growing on an apparently dead branch of our big wild cherry tree. I guess I would call this picture the front view.

This is the underside of the back of the same branch. I think I have seen this type of growth on the tree before. If this is "chicken of the woods", and if I ever ate wild mushrooms, I guess I would see this as a great thing. In fact, I'm more interested in the health of the tree. I have been told by Jane, a person who has spent almost eight decades wandering in the woods, that this is the biggest wild cherry tree she has ever seen. I would like it to get even bigger. Should Ed put removal of this branch on his long list of things to do or will the fungus grow only on the dead wood?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Should Have Had More Faith!

We got just a light kiss of frost the other night, but the nights have been cold, and the trees are beginning to turn color. I had completely given up on the idea of getting to have a moonflower blossom this year. Even here you can see another bud that browned in the cold and dropped off the vine. But last night was a little warmer and this bud did open.Perhaps it was the slightly warmer temperature or maybe this flower got some protection from the stone wall. It's an amazing boost for a gardener when a plant comes through after all hope seems lost.

The early morning fog was still on the garden when I spotted the large white flower from the bedroom window. I went out and got my feet wet with dew to take the picture of this brave blossom. Last night was it's time to bloom. It will wither in the sun today. Buoyed by this unexpected success, tonight I will peer out through the darkness hoping to see another flower. If I do, I'll put on my coat, get a flashlight, sit on the bench, and breathe in the moonflower's incredible evening scent. If not at least one moonflower made it. I can be content with that.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Advice From A Moonflower

It's not like the signs haven't been everywhere, but this dropped but unopened moonflower bud is sending me a message. Nights are getting too darned cold here for tropical, zone 10 and 11 plants to shiver outside. Unfortunately for the moonflower, the vines are simply too large to bring inside. Every year I hope to experience those huge , white, fragrant flowers, but more often than not this is the outcome. Let's see, my garden is zone 4 so this plant would rather grow about 7 zones warmer than here.

Another zone 11+ plant, the tuberose, is not small, but Ed dug the clump and moved it inside to a south facing window. It pouted for a day, but now it looks like I may still get to experience the fragrance of the tuberose. The house is cool for this plant , but with the southfacing window I still have hope.

Digging this giant clump of lemon grass was a chore for Ed . The five gallon bucket and the plant are heavy. The hand cart came in handy to wheel this plant into the safety of the basement. This clump spent last winter in a bucket there and did fine. Now it's bigger than ever.

Last night was cold, but tonight the county just to the North of us has freeze warnings. Being downhill from there, we will be lucky indeed to avoid a frost. Ed will spend the afternoon removing tender plants from the garden. It's a much more pleasant experience before frost turns them into slime.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fleeting Garden Beauty

On such a magnificent day I just had to spend some time in the garden with the camera. This buckwheat's white flowers have turned to red. It happens when the white petals fall, and the seeds begin to form. Ed was right behind me cutting down the buckwheat in this bed. Since it is a cover crop, he likes to let it flower, but cut it before it produces seed. The stalks remain right there in the bed. Later on I saw a viceroy butterfly on another bed of buckwheat flowers. I had left the camera in the house . Ed went inside to get it, and I watched the butterfly the entire time he was gone. The second I had the camera, the viceroy took off and flew out of sight. It makes me understand butterfly nets and killing jars. I would NEVER do that, but butterfly photography is a frustrating business. I didn't get a shot of the many monarchs that were flying around the garden today either.

This tall white snapdragon is still blooming beautifully. Of the annuals we planted this year , it has been one of the most satisfying. I'm sure it will continue to bloom until the cold really sets in here.

Another garden beauty that I missed today was a baby milk snake. Beautifully spotted and about the thickness of a pencil, he was sunning on the stone path at the base of the stone wall. The snake saw me when I saw it, and disappeared into the stone wall. I barely had time to turn the camera on. It was a fleeting encounter, but if he is settling in there, I'll look forward to seeing him again. If he gets really comfortable there, I might even get a picture.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Zone 4 Ginger

Preparing plants to spend the winter indoors has become a regular garden task now. This pot of ginger spent the summer up to its rim in a bucket filled with water. On clear days the water level in the bucket would drop more than one inch. Blogger Sunita from India told us that ginger was a crop that flourished during the monsoon season. Apparently keeping potted ginger in a bucket of water is something like the water level during monsoon season. This is the first year that we have had any real success growing ginger.

Fearful that the growing ginger would break the pot, we decided to thin and re pot our crop. Young shoots continue to appear on this immature plant. The brown skeleton on the left is all that remains of the rhizome we planted. Overcrowded is an understatement for this rampant growth.

This is our harvest. Smaller younger plants were selected for a return to the pot. Space constraints limit us to one indoor pot of ginger. The rest we will eat. Gingered carrots made with some of this ginger were part of tonight's evening meal. Purchased ginger root leaves nasty fibers on the grater. Our fresh ginger had no fibers.

A larger pot and a bigger water container has four young ginger plants ready for a sunny warm spot indoors. With any luck these plants will survive winter and perhaps reach maturity next summer. Na Leo sings of ginger leis so there must be ginger flowers. Could that possibly happen here?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Poor Mistreated Patchouli

This last winter when I was suffering from cabin fever and leafing through plant catalogs, I decided to purchase patchouli plants again. After all, the Richter's catalog describes the plant as easy to grow. I've had somewhat dismal results with the plant in the distant past, but I like the fragrance, and I was sure this time would be different. Since the plant is listed as zone 11+, I planted my patchouli in my warmest south facing beds in full sun. This poor patchouli has endured summer in upstate New York. It has been sunburned but is still clinging to life with a few green leaves. With the cooler weather and nights in the forties, Ed potted up the plant to move it inside and not a moment too soon!

Finally, I researched this plant to see what it's needs actually are. It should to be planted in indirect light in moist soil. For the plant to be truly be happy,the air should be moist and warm. The temperature should never drop below 75 degrees. The only thing I really did right was to plant it in dirt. Since it is still alive, Richters is right. Patchouli is pretty tough for so tender a plant.

Now the patchouli has a spot indoors, in indirect light, next to a south facing window. I will try to maintain the moisture it likes, but the plain fact is the temperature in this house in the winter is rarely above 70 degrees let alone 75. If the plant endures through the winter, I'll keep in inside . Perhaps next summer for a treat on a really hot humid day , it can go outside in the shade and enjoy a thunderstorm. If it dies I won't try again, I'm just not that mean!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15, 2010, Bloom List

Aster Oblongifolius,"Dream of Beauty"

Aster Latifolius, "Lady In Black"

These two asters are new for us this year. We hope they will do well here. They are off to a nice start so far.

September 1 ,2010, Bloom list: Ingeborg's mallow, purple cone flower, morning glory, evening scented stock, Gallardia, Johnny jump ups, Nicotiana, Stella D'oro lily, catchfly, Peppermint stick zinnia, wild and "Pretty Belinda" yarrow, snapdragon, heliotrope, "Who Dun It" Dahlia, Aclepsis tuberosa, anise hyssop, gloriosa daisy, catnip, cinnamon basil, fennel, black eyed Susan, golden glows, trumpet vine, cardinal flower, scarlet runner beans, white and pink phlox, Fiona Coggill shasta daisy, butterfly bush,white and red hibiscus, spearmint, peppermint, yard long beans, Russian sage, white coneflower, New England aster, lemon balm, C. superbum, rose of Sharon, lavender, Angelica gigas, nasturtiums, Dianthus, perennial flax, fragrant gladiolus, "Cherry Brandy" Rudbeckia, pennyroyal, purple closed gentian, "Clara Curtis" chrysanthemum, grey headed coneflower, meadow sage, feverfew,Rudbeckia triloba,spicy globe basil, asters, curly mint, sunflower, curly chives, mullein, buckwheat, peas, zucchini, "Autumn Joy" and pink sedum, pink foxglove, sea holly, dill, "Mammouth Dark Pink Daisy" chrysanthemum, chives, lemonverbena, arugula, zucchini, yellow squash, white coneflower, Aster latifolius, "Stardust " and "Mary Stoker" chrysanthemums, Brahmi, bluets, wild thyme

Now the list is getting shorter. Many flowers are nearly finished blooming. Some are making one last effort to bloom. A few plants are on the list for the first time and there are still a few late bloomers yet to come, that we hope will squeeze in their bloom time before cold weather arrives.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Long Awaited Encounter

Ed loaded the truck with his tools and the cooler and headed back to the wilderness garden. Here is the chosen spot to plant next year's garlic crop. Having had to abandon the garlic we have been growing because of disease, this spot is being readied for planting the new garlic. Time is getting short. In zone 4 the garlic should be planted right around Columbus Day. Ed is working on beds that are 18 feet long and 5 feet wide, with a three foot stone path down the center. Here stones for the path are in shorter supply. In the garden up front there are always two or three stones for one dirt.

Ed was kneeling down intent on placing stone in the path. Something made him look up. There perhaps fifty yards away was one of the young coyotes we have seen playing in the front garden earlier this year. Seeing each other at the same moment their eyes met. The early morning sun glinted red on the tips of the beautiful animal's handsome fur coat. Each took a good long look at the other. Then the coyote quietly turned and disappeared into the tall goldenrod of the meadow.

Ed has often wondered what he would do when faced with a coyote. Would he yell? Would he run for the safety of his truck? Would he fend off the vicious beast with his shovel? In the end the long awaited encounter was a quiet and peaceful one. Ed went back to his work, but the feeling that he was being watched never left him and I don't think the hair on the back of his neck was down until he came inside for lunch.

Lily Solution

Another bulb catalog arrived here today describing Oriental lilies as hardy to zone 3. Hardy to zone 5 is the common description in books. I am ashamed to say that I have ordered Oriental lilies year after year from this company only to watch them die after late spring freezes. Finally we will try something different.

A trench has been dug on the north side of the sod pile. It is already in shadow. During winter the trench will be shaded from sunlight for most of the day. This ground will remain frozen longer than the open garden. Lilies planted here should emerge later than those planted in the garden. A later start will make it easier to avoid those late frosts. A tarp will cover the entire lily planting with lots of room for water bottles when frost threatens.

Lilies in the garden is our goal so the bulbs will be fall planted in pots. As June 1st approaches the lilies will be removed from their pots and placed in the garden. Early growth within the pot may make it less likely that these bulbs will go a second year. Getting flowers the first year will be such an improvement that I can live with treating the bulbs as annuals.

Beating the frost is only the first battle. Welded wire cages will be needed to protect the lily buds from the deer. Bird netting on the wire cages will keep the Orioles from tearing apart the young flowers. When it is our time to enjoy the sight and scent of lilies in flower, the cages can be temporarily set aside. Nothing will come between us and our lilies. The only remaining question is can I order from the catalog that lists these bulbs as hardy to zone 3? They do offer for sale some real beauties.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Keeping A Close Eye On The Tuberose

I've heard that a watched pot never boils. I hope that doesn't apply to the blooming of a tuberose. This picture was taken at about 8:30 this morning.

This picture was taken at 3:30 this afternoon. I can see definite progress. The big question is whether the fragrant flowers will open before the cold really arrives. I know the plant is not happy with our night temperatures, and it's getting colder.
The clump is planted in the ground, not in a pot so I can't just lift it and bring it indoors. Maybe I will cut a stem, or maybe I'll ask Ed to dig it up anyway. In the meantime I wait and watch. Perhaps all this tuberose drama will teach me to research these tropical plants before I buy them, not after. I really don't like to be guilty of plant abuse. Then there is the patchouli, but that's another long story.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Milkweed Munching Monarchs

A beautiful day always calls for a tour of the garden with the camera. When I came upon this milkweed growing in the stone path , there was no way I could miss this big fat Monarch caterpillar munching away on the top leaf of the plant. Why he's nearly as long as the milkweed leaf is wide.

I next noticed a very small caterpillar on another leaf of the same plant. This one is much younger, and barely reaches the distance across half a leaf. What luck to see two caterpillars on the same milkweed plant right here in the garden. As I looked more closely I noticed another caterpillar on the underside of the very same leaf. You can see his shadow. Just the top of his head peaks over the edge as he munches the hole in the leaf from underneath. Now this is getting almost too good!

Closer inspection revealed one more caterpillar on the underneath side of the big caterpillar's milkweed leaf. If I were that smaller caterpillar , just the shadow of that behemoth would make me drop down to another leaf. They seem to be sharing the space with no problem.

Clearly the large caterpillar has been munching on the top of this plant for awhile. I wonder if the plant has enough leaves for everyone. The weather will be a factor. Mother Nature hedges her bets. Butterfly eggs laid at different times instead of all at once improve the chances of overall survivial.

I took great delight in calling first Ed, and then Amy over to let them discover all four caterpillars. It makes me glad that we allowed the milkweed to grow in the stone path. Who would want to miss this much fun?

Later as I sat on the garden bench thinking that the hummingbirds had left for the winter on this week's wind from the north, a friendly hummer flew right in front of me. I was happy to see at least one is still around.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Visit On The Wild Side

After two days of rain, Ed was headed outside early. He took his scythe and went back to the pond. He was gone for some time when he returned to get me, the camera, and some water. We took the truck up the lane to the back meadow, and the pond. Looking south toward the stone square and the house, all you can see is an ocean of goldenrod and milkweed, perfect for Monarch butterflies. The single clump of New England asters is a favorite of ours and a favorite snack of the deer. Back here where the critters rule, the purple plants are rare. On the horizon you can see morning river fog, and just a bit of the distant hills on the other side of the river.

A new plant has popped up at the pond. If I am correct it is Nodding Burr Marigold. The bloom time and habitat is right . These plants and duckweed seem to have taken over the pond. The seeds of the marigold are favored by ducks. Perhaps they were flown in by our fowl friends.

Here where there is plenty of water, the plant life is lush. Another type of aster and orange jewel weed battle for their spot amid the ferns and marigolds.

I could see interesting mushrooms from the edge of the pond. Ed got his feet wet getting to the island to take this shot of mushrooms growing at the base of a tree. I'm pretty sure the next hot sunny day will find him playing back here in the water and mud. He's really a kid at heart!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Behold My Tuberose!

That's definitely a bud! Flowers are so close I can almost smell them. Of course I never have, so I really can't imagine the scent. My excitement is growing. If the weather holds, a picture of single tuberose flowers will be mine to take.

Today we saw a different kind of hawk perched in the cherry tree. He had a striped tail, and a speckled chest, Although we promised ourselves we would try to remember detail, we still can't identify the bird with any certainty. Migrating hawks are just one more indication of seasonal change here. The garden is surrounded with a yellow sea of goldenrod. Hummingbirds are still here, but the chickadees are back. In some ways this is my favorite time of year.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Such A Cool Day In The Garden!

After many days of hot weather, this morning the weather was in the cool sixties. For me this is perfect weather for working in the garden. After breakfast Ed and I headed out to play in the garden. I decided to work on the bed in front of the house. There was plenty of deadheading to do, and a lot of weeds to pull. Now is a great time to get them before all their seeds have a chance to drop. I was enjoying the breeze . The aroma of the French tarragon, garden sage and lemon verbena filled the air as I brushed against plants while I worked.

I spent a very long time watching first two and than a single hummingbird visiting the scarlet runner beans. This one hummer seems so friendly. It actually comes and hovers right in front of me and seems to linger in the area where I work, even though there are many flowers in other places in the garden. Talk about cool!

Ed called me over to take a picture of this beautiful caterpillar. It's a Hickory tussock moth caterpillar. Ed was right not to pick it up. Sensitive persons get rashes from handling this one. He may be bristly, but I think he's gorgeous and more than a little cool.

A brief glimpse of a bald eagle soaring low overhead made the morning cooler yet.

Cool during the day here in September can mean pretty cold at night. With the temperature forecast in the low forties, some of the more tender plants are headed into the basement for the night. My sweet bays, ginger, curry leaf plant, patchouli and a lemon grass have been moved inside. Tomorrow during the day they will be carried back outside. Now the in and out gang begins. More plants will be potted and join the group as the cold weather threatens. It takes a cool day like this one to give us a little reminder to get ready for what's surely to come.

Friday, September 3, 2010

When Blight Strikes...

On August 13 as far as the tomatoes go, everything was rosy and things were looking good. Well, maybe there is one brown leaf in this picture. The vines were robust, the tomatoes were ripening nicely. We had quite a number of vine ripened fruits to enjoy and it looked like a fantastic year for tomatoes here at the Stone Wall Garden.

If we fast forward to now, we had an agonizing reality to face. TOMATO BLIGHT!!! I have had no experience with tomato blight, and I knew I needed to make a call for help. Here in New York State we are lucky enough to have a Cornell Cooperative Extension offices. Help is just one phone call away. A master gardener will answer your questions, or find the answers for you. A word to the wise , when disaster strikes go for an .edu site to research your problem. .coms usually want to sell you something, and there is no entrance exam to write a garden blog.

Diseased vines must be put in plastic bags, left for some time in the sun, and then put out with the trash. If you are out in the boondocks like we are, burning to control agricultural disease is allowed. We probably put almost a hundreds pounds of tomatoes out with the trash.

Ed decided to burn the straw mulch right in the garden. This was not a happy afternoon's work. We still have more debris for our next trash pick up. For once our cold winter is an advantage. Tomato blight will not survive our cold winter weather. There is potentially more bad news however. We also grow potatoes, and potato blight is not destroyed by the cold. The potatoes vines did die down, but they always do. All we have to look at to check for blight is the potatoes. I wait with some trepidation for the information on potato blight to arrive in the mail. I much prefer having nice healthy plants in the garden, but sometimes...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September 1: Bloom List

This lovely pink sedum is blooming now to the delight of the bees.

Curly chives sometimes called circle chives make a neat round cushion of foilage all summer and lovely lavender blooms late in the season.

September 1 ,2010, Bloom list: Ingeborg's mallow, purple cone flower, morning glory, lemon finger bowl geranium, coral bells, meadow sage, evening scented stock, Gallardia, Johnny jump ups, Nicotiana, Stella D'oro lily, catchfly, Peppermint stick zinnia, "Pretty Belinda" yarrow, snapdragon, heliotrope, pink poppies, sweet peas, "Who Dun It" Dahlia, Aclepsis tuberosa, anise hyssop, gloriosa daisy, cosmos, catnip, hollyhock, cinnamon basil, fennel, black eyed Susan, yellow jewelweed, golden glows, trumpet vine, cardinal flower, white and pink summer sweet, scarlet runner beans, white and pink phlox, Fiona Coggill shasta daisy, balloon flower, butterfly bush,white and red hibiscus, lettuce, winter savory, spearmint, peppermint, yard long beans, Russian sage, white coneflower, New England aster, lemon balm, C. superbum, rose of Sharon, lavender, Angelica gigas, nasturtiums, Dianthus, perennial flax, fragrant gladiolus, "Cherry Brandy" Rudbeckia, pennyroyal, white and purple closed gentian, "Clara Curtis" chrysanthemum, grey headed coneflower, meadow sage, feverfew,Rudbeckia triloba,spicy globe basil, asters, curly mint, sunflower, curly chives, mullein, buckwheat, peas, zucchini, "Autumn Joy" and pink sedum, pink foxglove, sea holly, dill, "Mammouth Dark Pink Daisy" chrysanthemum

Now the list is getting shorter. Many flowers are nearly finished blooming. Some are making one last effort to bloom. A few plants are on the list for the first time and there are still a few late bloomers yet to come, that we hope will squeeze in their bloom time before cold weather arrives.

I was lucky enough to get a glimpse of the fox in the garden today.

Next Year's Garden

Almost without notice the focus of how I spend my garden time has shifted from the current garden to next year's garden. Peas, potatoes and garlic were harvested from these beds this year. Their plant residue and weeds have been replaced with buckwheat. Densely planted buckwheat shades out newly emerging weeds and supplies a generous layer of green manure for next year's chosen crop. It should be cut down before it sets seed or buckwheat will be next year's dominant weed. Bees swarm to the flowers so the plants remain uncut for now. It quite a thrill working next to all of the bees feeding on the buckwheat flowers. Stinging me is the last thing on their minds but I am careful not to stick my nose into an occupied flower.

The basal rosette of young plants points to this Cardinal flower's focus on next year's plants. How a plant that multiplies so freely can be a short lived perennial remains a mystery to me. I have come to believe that all of this year's plant will disappear over winter. Neither crown nor roots will remain from this parent plant. All that will remain is the rosette of daughter plants. Six new plants will have their roots in a tangled mass with little soil penetration. The mass of thinly planted roots are prone to frost heave and death for the daughter plants. If my theory is correct, intervention will be required to save these new plants.

My first bold act was to cut away all of the current plant. These firm stems were placed at the base of the stone wall out of sight. After the ground has frozen the remains of this year's plant will be used to mulch the cluster of daughter plants. If continuous snow cover looks chancy, snow will be shoveled onto these plants. Early next spring when the ground thaws, these plants will be potted up so that I can move them to the basement if severe freezes threatened. When I transplant these I will look for any remaining sign of the parent plant. Six stems show that I did not divide this plant this year. It was coarsely mulched. Each stem will likely create six new plants. Thirty-six new plants in such a small space looks risky to me.