Thursday, June 30, 2011

No Rain in the Garden!

Yesterday was a great day to spend in the garden. We didn't see much of the sun, but the grey clouds kept the rain to themselves. We have lot to do. Ed spent time digging and dividing iris. Susan and May stopped by to trade plants.  Two different iris that were from Susan's grandmother's farm are now at Stone Wall Garden. I weeded around the lavender hoping it would dry off so that I could cut it. I have my ribbons all ready to make lavender wands. I didn't get around to trimming the lady's mantle so it still has it's after the heavy rain look.

Without the rain this "Sundown" cone flower had a visitor .

 It was so nice to see a honeybee on the milkweed. I wish you could enjoy its fragrance that dances through the garden on the wind!

 The A. curviceps, swamp milkweed, is blooming too. Ants seem to be visiting here.

 I took great delight in watching this bumblebee wriggle and roll around in this pink poppy.

But the best fun was watching the antics of this male woodpecker and his offspring. Dad does feed the baby, who is almost his size, but there seem to be rules. Baby seems to get fed after flying, and definitely gets fed after pecking on the locust tree branch. Here at our garden playground work does get done, but stopping to enjoy what is going on around you is job ONE!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Iris Ensata In Abundance

Our first Japanese Iris has been with us four years.  Year one it established itself but did not flower.  Year two featured a single flower stalk. The color and veining on the flowers were breathtaking.  We were hooked.  We needed to have more Iris Ensata.  Year three we allowed some seed pods to mature.  Some of the collected seeds were placed in a pot in the garden where they spent the winter.  That pot is in the foreground of the photo with a marker stone.  Nature's way has produced sturdy young plants ready to be planted out.

Some of the collected seed was placed in the refrigerator in a plastic bag with a lightly moistened paper  towel.  We were advised to use a fungicide but chose to pass on keeping such a chemical with our food.  On New Year's Day I needed to plant something and selected the iris seeds.  The pot in the background contains the plants from the refrigerated seed.  These much larger plants should flower one year sooner than the plants that spent the winter outside.  The entire project was enjoyable and instructive but what are we going to do with all of these plants?  That question looms even larger with the news that the original plant needs to be divided this year.

Our original plant was purchased as a named variety, Freckled Geisha, but it is not that variety.  Since no flowers were produced until the second year we did not know of the problem within the seller's warranty period.  A different dealer supplied assorted plants but two of the three never found life.  A third dealer, McClure and Zimmerman, has named varieties and plants purchased there arrived intact and are growing.  Flowers will not appear until the second season but we find them worth the wait.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hello Yellow?

As an avid butterfly enthusiast, I am a sucker for any plant that is supposed to attract butterflies. I especially love  Monarch butterflies in particular.  Because of this I'm always a soft touch when it comes to Aclepias. Never mind the fact that we have large area of regular milkweed, I still insist on buying other kinds.  I did get a pink A. curviceps that I love very much. But when you get into A. tuberosa, Butterfly weed, that things  don't exactly work out as hoped. This plant is called "Hello Yellow." HELLO!  This plant is ORANGE. It was shown completely  yellow in the van Bourgondien catalog. So far in my experience no matter what, when you buy butterfly weed you get orange. I once bought "Gay butterflies" in  a local nursery. The nursery man told me that he planted the mix, but I should expect to get orange. He was right. I got orange. Now I'm not a  big fan of the color orange, but for butterflies I make an exception. Like a kid who wants to continue to believe in Santa, I would still like to have this plant in yellow, but it's time to grow up and accept  the cold hard fact that Butterfly Weed is  orange.

At least the plant is doing great, and every notices it. Of course they do, it's the same color as the vest on a highway flagman.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Potted Lilies

We are finally having some success with our lilies.  This Asiatic lily, orange electric, has been with us for three years.  Van Bourgondien's catalog lists this lily as hardy to zone 3.  Sites not selling this lily describe it as hardy to zone 5.  Our experience supports a zone 5 requirement.  Here in zone 4 this lily needs some extra help.  In previous years it was a struggle just to keep the plant alive.  A bucket covered it when frost threatened but its growth was scant and flowers even smaller.  This bulb spent last winter in a pot.  The pot was buried in a sheltered location near other lilies and a tarp covered the lot when frost threatened.  In response to this extra care, orange electric is putting on quite a show this year.  Its flowers are more intense than the catalog photo.  Foliage growth is respectable.  This lily wants to live.  It will be carefully tended this season and returned to the pot for the winter.  We will be looking for it in 2012.

Lilium Farolito has been with us for years.  Purchased at a local nursery as a greenhouse forced early bloomer, it was transplanted in front of the house after blooming.  Early up each spring it was hammered by frosts.  We could cover it while it was short enough to fit under a garbage can but it always outgrew the cans with several frosts yet to come.  The warm site near the house was blamed for the early emergence and rapid growth.  We moved these lilies away from the house and planted them with daffodils.  Farolito was still up early and the nearness of the daffodils made protecting the lilies from frost impossible.  Three became one and the sole survivor spent the past winter in a pot near the other lilies.  Even in its shaded location this lily was first to emerge and quickly passed three feet in height.

 Moving the potted lily into the basement was the only way to protect it from the last frosts.  All of that effort was well worth it.  We will be treated to numerous scented flowers over the coming days.  Perhaps this lily will reward us by producing new bulbs.  In any event this plant will spend the winter in a pot buried to the rim in our new and improved earthen cold frame.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wet, Wild and Wonderous

Yesterday required that we travel, but as we neared home on the interstate heavy rain covered the highway with water and severely tested our windshield wipers and Ed's patience. We were glad to get off the interstate and head over the hill toward home. Soon the rain let up but as we drove on the country road it seemed like every driveway had gravel washed across the road. The ditches alongside were running fast and full with Willy Wonka colored water.

 I guess it was inevitable that we would come to a place where the water covered the road. We travel this particular road often and Ed knows it well. The water was shallow and smooth flowing from fields rather than streams. "Don' t drive through water across the road" echoed in my head, but Ed was confident, proceeded carefully and everything was fine.  Two more times we were faced with this situation, but when we were almost home we came to a place where a usually small stream goes through a culvert under the road. Here the water was boiling up and over the road. Debris cluttered the road. It didn't take us long to decide to turn around and drive the extra miles to go another way.

When we arrived home Ed was thrilled to find our drive was is really great shape. The garden also appeared to be unscathed. Three inch deep planting trays were full to the brim with water so we must have had more rain than that. Ed dumped the standing water and we walked around the garden. There we found this white, delicate Japanese iris wet with water, but looking gorgeous as if nothing had happened at all. Plants are amazing! It was so great to be home!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice: Shorter Garden Days Begin

The first pink poppy of the season opened today  to welcome summer to the garden. It will be followed by many more. The scarlet runner beans are up and will soon be twining up the wire, sporting  red blossoms to tempt  the hummingbirds to come close to the house.

Work to enclose Ed's lilies in cages and netting is ongoing. An occasional glimpse of the Baltimore Oriole reminds us how important this job is to complete.

We finished weeding the onion bed. It's fun to weed in a place where if it isn't an onion out it goes. It's so nice to see the results.  Oops. Yes, we did leave a poppy in the space between the strawberries and the onions. What can I say we're weak.  Our cold wet spring seems to have really favored the onions.

You would think that a deep  stone path would not support plant growth, but it does. Here the hollyhocks and rose campion have created a detour for me and my garden cart. Soon this path will be impenetrable.  We could weed them out but we will not.  The hollyhocks are descendants of a giant that grew here.  They deserve a chance to reach record height.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Walk with Dad, Photos by Amy

 Today being  Father's Day and gorgeous to boot, it was only natural that Amy and Ed take a walk around the place. I stayed back. Only my shoes made the trip.  This wild rose grows in the back along the fence line. I've always loved this rose. It has a lovely scent and nice rose hips. Ed took some cuttings for me so we can plant it closer to the house. I've never looked at it close up before . It has an interesting center.

Ed spotted an unknown flower. Amy took pictures so they could see if I would correctly identify it for them. My best guess was Salsify, but on looking in the book I found that Salsify flowers are pink. This is Yellow Goatsbeard, Tragopogon dubius. They' re in the same family so I was close. Tomorrow I'll go back to get a look at this flower. Apparently it is a morning flower and closes by noon.

The sweet flag that I planted years ago back by the pond is flowering. I hope Amy will forgive me. This photo is not up to her focus standards, but by the time I get back there to try again some critter will probably have eaten it.

The pond is full of duckweed and eggs. Mmmm nice frog's legs. I've always liked them best on the frog!

This is a really good looking frog. He could be a Prince, but they are so hard to catch!

This year a blue sky picture like this has been hard to come by.  It is a welcome sight.

The back meadow is deeply green. The  milkweed is just beginning to flower.

This large wad of "spit" on the Larch tree caught Amy's eye. We always called the owner of this spit wad a spittlebug. I really have no idea who the culprit actually is.

Mushrooms are fascinating too. Long ago I decided that fungus are best photographed and left alone.

Ed and Amy arrived back down the path to the garden just in time for lunch. What a memorable way to spend time together on Father's Day 2011!

Friday, June 17, 2011

It's All About Thyme

 Now is the exciting thyme for a thyme covered patio. We love the look.

We are not alone in our admiration of the thyme. If it is not raining, the thyme is buzzing with all kinds of bees. I would not want to walk barefoot in the thyme when it is flowering. The bees are busy, but self defense is another matter.


For years I have fervently weeded the thyme on the stone patios. I was determined keep the woolly thyme and the red creeping thyme separate. I have officially given up weeding the  thyme out of the thyme.

Here the darker pink flowers are my red creeping thyme. The light pink flowers belong to wild thyme. It was here when we came and grows in large patches all through the grass. You can smell it when you walk. It is the wild thyme that cascades off the edge of the patio. How can I argue with that?  Thyme is thyme. We will enjoy the flowers and the bees until the thyme begins to go to seed, then we will give the patio a short haircut with the weed whacker. If you want to keep your thyme in good condition , you have to cut it back after it flowers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Garden Fun in the Sun

It was a beautiful day to be in the garden. I did some weeding, planted a few plants, watered all the plants that are still in pots and took a few pictures in the garden. It's not often that I actually catch a butterfly with the camera, but this tiger swallowtail was so interested in the pink painted daisy that he ignored me. Look how fuzzy he is.
I also cut catnip for drying. It's a.regular thing for me to cut catnip on a dry day. I use it to stuff catnip mice that I knit. You can see them here!

Ed  pulled weeds, planted plants, cut the scapes off half his garlic, took cuttings of a pink wild rose, hilled the fall planted potatoes, and mowed the grass. We both had a very happy day in the garden.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just When You Think All Hope is Gone

This spring I ordered a maidenhair fern. I wanted it for the shade garden. There used to be one in the woods in the back, but I could no longer find it. When it arrived the  plant didn't look very alive, but we put it in a pot to await its time to be planted outside.  I had placed the empty looking pot  on the shade  garden wall near where it was to be planted. It had been there for several days when Ed came in and told me that something had dug in the pot. When I went outside I saw the flash of a chipmunk as he darted into a small hole in the stone wall. I was angry! "* &%! chipmunk" I muttered to myself. I reached out and dumped the pot of dirt, and there to my utter amazement I found some black roots and a tiny bit of green growth . Ed planted it for me immediately! The tiny little green frond is just above the "a" in Maidenhair. My apologies to Mr. Chipmunk. This time at least, I was wrong about him. Hopes for Maidenhair fern live if only by a tiny bit.

 Here we have my clematis. Last year with the late frost this plant looked dead! So very dead in fact that I ordered its replacement. It just goes to show you what I know. Not only is the plant alive, but check out the flowers. I gave up way too soon on this one.
Here we have some lilies that were frozen to the ground by last June's hard freeze.  Fall cleanup found a pathetic lily leaf lying on the ground.  That was all the growth they managed last year. It was a complete surprise to see them this year. I have to wonder how a plant can stay dormant for an entire season and then come back looking great. I know it happens, but is is miraculous to me!

Early this morning while I was drinking my coffee and staring out the window at the misty morning, a male indigo bunting landed on the ledge just outside my window. He stayed for several seconds and I was transfixed. Before this I have only seen  brief flashes of that incredible blue among the treetops. This time we were  very close to each other and face to face. What a picture it would have made, but all I had in my hand was a coffee cup.  I've never seen anything like the blue of that indigo bunting. I'll probably never get that close again, but it made this morning special and there's always hope!

 Ed and I were lucky enough to see a green heron today too. Cloudy rainy and gray or not, it was a great day!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Arbutus Cuttings

What follows are notes intended in part for myself that will record what actions were taken.  If successful, I would like to be able to do it again.  If unsuccessful, then perhaps the cause of the problem can be determined.  Arbutus cuttings were taken the day after thunderstorms.  Maximum moisture in the plant cells should be the case following heavy rain.  Cuttings that take found moisture.  What better way to start than with a full tank?  Except for the four dark green specimens at the right, new growth supplied cutting material.  New cells are more likely to change function and I need the cells at the cut site to change to root and crown cells.  The four old cuttings represent mistakes on my part.  That is a comment on my learning curve.

New Arbutus growth springs from the tip of last year's growth and the spent flowers.  A new main stem winds above the ground with leaf stems branching from it.  Sever the main stem at its point of origin.  The first leaf stem was removed with a crescent shaped piece of the main stem attached.  A dip in water was followed by a dusting in rooting hormone.  The cutting was then placed in an opened hole in the rooting medium.  The rooting compound must remain on the newly cut surface.  Placing the stem in a fully opened hole avoids wiping off the compound on the soil.  On this day a second leaf stem was removed with the arc of main stem attached.  The leaf at the tip of the main stem went in with newly cut main stem.

Leaf size decreased as I approached the tip of the main stem.  Tiny leaves were at the end of the main stem.  Since new cells are more likely to change function than old cells, I expect the tiny leaved cuttings to root and form new plants.  Larger older leaves may be less likely to take.  The four old dark green cuttings from last year's growth are expected to die.

The soil used is my own mixture. A commercial seed/cutting mix was my starting point. Discs of tree bark were part of the mix and I screened them out. Litter under a white pine tree and clumps of growing moss with its root mass intact were also forced through the fine screen and added to the commercial mix. Some vermiculite straight from the bag completed the mixture. I do not measure but my best guess is three parts commercial mix, two parts forest floor litter and one part vermiculite would repeat my mix. My mix was placed in a cell tray and the whole mess was moistened. It matured for several days before it received the cuttings.

Clean sharp garden pruners cut the main stems from the donor plants. A hobby knife with a new blade cut the leaf stems from the main stems. A block of soft pine lumber provided a work surface. A small container of water, a small container of rooting hormone and a toothpick for making planting holes completes the list of necessary tools.

A clear plastic dome covers the tray of cuttings.  The tray is near a basement window where it receives a generous dose of indirect light.  Now we wait.  The cuttings will receive a glance every time I exit or enter the basement.  I will try to complete my inspections without lifting the clear cover.  So far so good.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bee Still My Heart

I'm always a little bit careful around  seriously medicinal plants like Digitalis, but the bumblebees are right at home in the interesting flowers. This picture shows a just a little bit of  bee backside.

 Boy that bumblebee is really buzzing up a storm in there. Filtering the sunlight through a pink foxglove flower changes the bee's color.

Once outside we can see the bee is actually bright yellow with a black rear end. He's just one of several kinds of bumblebees that we see here. I think the little bee to the right of the picture is a much smaller totally different kind of bee.

For several days we have been having hot, dry weather. Ed watered some with the watering can this morning . This afternoon we got  some rain courtesy of a thunderstorm. We are both  feeling better and making daily progress in the garden. Weeds get pulled and planting gets done. If this garden  race is like  the tortoise and the hare, this year we are definitely the tortoise!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Well Planned Bed

At some level, planning could be part of the foundation of a garden.  Our main planting beds are five feet wide and thirty-two feet long.  We were able to reach across the width when younger.  Now an occasional footprint in the soil tells of a rare step onto the garden soil.  The length allows for two twelve foot vegetable plantings in the center with four foot flower plantings at the end.   Like all plans this pattern is subject to change but it is our basic method.

Yesterday, two cherry tomato plants were planted in this bed.  Today, sweet peppers followed.  Space remained when all of the peppers were placed.  With many pots of overwintered lilies waiting for attention, it occurred to me that peppers, tomatoes and lilies might share this bed.

Easter lilies, L. longiflorum, were part of my youth.  A few years ago some were purchased at the supermarket after the holiday.  Our late frosts and this lily's dislike for cold limited our success with these bulbs.  Last fall many of our lilies were placed in pots that were sunk to their rims in the ground.  Frost protection was achieved by covering the group with a tarp on cold nights.  Our June 3rd frost found these lilies safely in our basement.  All pictured lilies came from one pot.  Three plants have buds.  The rest are growing from small bulbils.  We expect flowers and plan to try some winter forcing in 2012.

Forest floor litter was the source of the mulch that nearly covers this planting bed.  Hand tools, a wheelbarrow and a sifting screen with 1/2 inch square mesh produced this mulch.  It was not totally free as many of the flying forest creatures feasted on me as I sifted.  I do like the look of the screened leaves as mulch and they will be part of the soil by next season.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Some People Buy Iris

I know that some people buy Iris. We get catalogs filled with all kinds of large , frilly, colorful iris. I can't even imagine how many named irises there are, since they have been a staple for cultivated gardens for so long. I must admit that I have never actually purchased an iris. All my iris are gifts from friends. This year the irises have been happy, and they have blooming like crazy. These  white iris were a gift from Jane. I have these same iris in another spot in the garden and they came from Sabina.

This is Amy's iris. She had never seen it bloom where it was growing before, and it took several years for it to bloom here.

This iris came from my mother. It has been around  as long as I can remember. The flowers are on the small side, but this iris will bloom no matter what. White and purple blossoms are bravely peeking out of the tall weeds in places where you would never believe they could grow.

I received lovely lavender iris  from Joann . The lavender iris that came from  Edith was so similar. At one time I kept the two apart, but now I 'm not sure which is which. In this case one flower reminds me of two friends.

This gorgeous purple iris was another gift from Jane. Last year it got nipped in the bud by frost, but it is making up for it this year.

This tall iris was also a gift from Jane. We have been waiting for this one to bloom and we were not disappointed.

This apricot iris came from Liz. It bloomed beautifully this year. The large frilly blossoms tend to snap their stems when the flowers get wet and this year they have been wet!.

This sunny yellow iris also came from Joann. It does very well here.

The white , yellow, lavender, apricot and mother's iris will all need  resetting this year. Perhaps I can find a friend to pass some of them along to. As I said, I don't buy iris, but sometimes I trade or give them to friends.

Of course I don't mean Siberian iris or Japanese iris or Dutch iris or that iris with the variegated leaves, but you know Iris!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Contemplating a Garden Divorce

I would be the first to admit that we have been falling behind. This picture of our first planting of weeds peas with a ragweed right in the center kind of sums things up. It's been a tough week here at the Stone Wall Garden.  The June frost, although light, did not sit well. That was only the beginning. On Thursday, after an hour of water aerobics in a chlorine pool, a long shower, and some time in a sauna, I found,ugh, a deer tick stuck on me. We made the trip to the emergency room to have it removed. They sent it wherever they send deer ticks, gave me a strong dose of antibiotic and send me home. Friday  Ed was feeling terrible with fever and chills. That night at Amy's urging, I checked him over and discovered he had a  nasty looking rash under his left arm. It was late, after eleven, when we  made the second trip of the week  to the emergency room. In his case no tick was found, but he definitely has an infected bite of some kind. He was given even more antibiotics than I was . That night I thought to myself "I think I want a garden divorce." I love the flowers, the fresh vegetables, the herbs, the butterflies, the birds,  but I've had enough. Maybe an apartment in the city would be better.

In the morning I walked in the garden, watched the hummingbird on the coral bells, caught the aroma of the lemon lilies, and snapped a picture of this gorgeous blue anchusa flower .Then I decided.  I'm not giving up. It's not the garden, it's me. I'll wear the white clothes , stuff my pants inside my socks, use repellent, shower after gardening and do the extra laundry .  I can't give the garden up. I WON'T!