Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irene's Garden Visit

Irene's visit here was too wet, too windy and entirely too long. We were  fortunate, but  some of the plants were a bit tangled. Here the golden glows blew down onto the Gloriosa daisies and the anise hyssop.

The buckwheat plants were well stirred.

This Rudabeckia trilobia was really flattened.

The big red hibiscus didn't stand up to the wind. It flattened the flax.

Blown by a strong gust of wind  from the north, it toppled onto of the lemon verbena

Ed's tomato bed looked perfectly normal and when we went to bed that night we thought we had been very lucky and that life would be back to normal. Well, we were very lucky! We had no serious damage, but during the night while we were sleeping Irene left us with a not so nice parting gift. When we awoke in the morning we had no power. The Stone Wall Garden is out in the country. We have our own well so without power we have no water.

Ed dragged our 12 year old generator out of its shed and we began our days of trying to keep the food in the freezers from spoiling and pumping just enough water to meet our needs. Things were humming along until the generator wouldn't start . We loaded it into Ed's truck with little hope, but our friends at Norwich Implement said they would try to fix our dinosaur even though old generator parts are impossible to find. Ed backed the truck up to the shop. Four mechanics looked at the generator shaking their heads.'It's old." " It's rusty". were some of the remarks I heard. But one guy said  "Maybe you'll be lucky and its just that your balls are stuck!" He went to get a big hammer. He whomped it twice with the hammer and it started on the second pull. That was yesterday and it is still humming today. Today I saw NYSEG and Aspeludh trucks in the neighborhood. At my age I never thought guys in trucks could make my heart beat so fast. It doesn't look like it will happen today, but maybe , maybe tomorrow our power will be back on. I write this now from the library in town.  I  know one thing I missed the blog!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Really Glad for 46 Years

Now I ask you , what could make a woman happier than a beautiful bouquet of flowers for her 46th anniversary? These are not flowers from a florist hurriedly purchased at the last minute, but gladiolas that grew from bulbs that Ed planted. He  weeded the plants, cut the flowers and arranged them himself. The flowers will last for awhile, but the feelings behind them are forever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Butteflies, So Relaxing to Watch...

What could be more relaxing than sitting on the garden bench after spending time working in the garden. Butterflies float from flower to flower. They are so delicate, so restful, unless you have your camera with you. Then the picture changes. As soon as I got up the butterfly headed to the phlox on the other side of the wall. Not to be denied I followed the black swallowtail who now seems to have shifted into overdrive. He flitted from  the phlox to the sunflowers to the catch fly to the butterfly bush, and finally to the zinnias. I followed my quarry. Finally I got my picture.

Of course I had to try to take more. What if the focus wasn't perfect. Perhaps I could do better. This picture on the catch fly was my last attempt. That butterfly's wings were moving so fast they are a blur.  I got my pictures, but the next time I sit on the bench to watch the butterflies, I'll get a glass of iced tea and leave the camera in the house.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Way Too Much of a Good Thing

After four years with us, our first Iris ensata needed to be divided.  Flowers were few in number this year and the center of the plant featured a hole.  At a cooperative extension presentation on propagating perennials, the speaker described needing an axe to divide an Iris ensata.  We knew that we needed the big tools.  The pry bar and a fulcrum rock lifted the plant easily.

The two spade trick separated the root mass.  One spade was solidly stuck in the plant on first division. It was quite a tussle to free the spade. No injury was sustained be either the spade puller nor the plant and the rest of the divisions were made easily.

We stopped at five pieces.  New to this process, we have no idea what size pieces are best for replanting.  A medium sized piece took the place of the original plant but the question of what to do with the remaining plant material needed an answer.  Going commercial was out of the question as was junking these beautiful plants.  The four remaining plants were taken back to the pond.  There we are trying to replace the goldenrod with some of our favorite plants.  These iris look tough enough to take on the goldenrod.

The surplus issue still looms.  Here are the iris that grew from seed collected last summer.  These plants will likely winter over where they are presently growing but a more permanent solution must soon be found.  Perhaps with more experience we will be able to cast off surplus plants without giving them a second thought.  For now we are beginning to sink under the weight of all of these new plants.

Planting Serendipity

This beautiful fragrant day lily is 'Princton Silky'. It was described as a mid to late bloomer.  Most of our day lilies finished blooming weeks ago, but this is the first flower for this first year plant. It is fragrant, and gorgeous like its catalog photograph.

We planted it next to the 'Stardust'  chrysanthemums and are quite delighted with the color  combination. It's like going out somewhere special having your dress match your shoes. This rarely happens to us and I'm sure  it's serendipity or just plain luck. I wonder if there is even a small chance the this day lily, once established, will bloom late enough to be seen with the mums. Even if it never happen again, it certainly added a smile to the gardeners' faces this year! 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Arbutus In August

Since moving these arbutus, Epigea repens, earlier this year, daily maintenance has been done.  A sprinkler can of water was applied every rainless day.  Weeds have been pulled as they first appeared.  Two violet plants escaped weeding because they resembled arbutus leaves.  Reason replaced wishing and the violets were removed.  As is so often the case, the violet was growing right in the crown of the desired plant.  Both violets were removed with no apparent damage to the arbutus.  The flowers on these violets are a bright light purple and these weeds were moved to another place where we hope they grow.

We had read that arbutus forms flower buds in the fall and carries them through the winter.  It is still summer but there are numerous plant signs that fall is here early this year.  Several clusters of buds were spotted giving us strong hope that we will have arbutus flowers early next spring.  Our apparent success with transplanting these notoriously difficult plants is due in part to the fact that we found small plants growing well away from other larger arbutus.  We were able to lever out these remote plants with their entire root mass intact.  There was no root connection to the larger clumps.  We plan to try for more next spring if we can secure the landowner's permission.

Failure comes close by success.  Rain knocked this arbutus cutting out of the soil.  There is no root development at the wound site.  How this leaf has supplied itself with water and nutrients is a mystery to me.  With no roots nor crown this plant will be dead at snow melt.  Other cuttings remained in the ground after the storm so we do not know if all of the cuttings are rootless.  Soon they will be uprooted to see if there is any point in potting any of them up in preparation for winter.  We plan to try taking cuttings again next year.  Sand will be added to our soil mix to provide some drainage.  Perhaps if the moisture is harder to come by, the cuttings will send out some roots.

Friday, August 19, 2011

After the Chase, a Perfect Pose

It was a beautiful cool evening, just perfect for a walk around the garden. This female humming bird darted from flower to flower on the trumpet vine daring Amy to take her picture. She buzzed and hummed alluringly, then another hummingbird swooped in and the two flew high into the air at top speed. They zipped around the garden, but Amy was patient and it paid  when the female stopped to perch.  There are still flowers for the hummers in the garden, but the cool weather tonight is a reminder that soon they will be speeding south instead of humming around here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dew Drops in the Garden

With the valley fog this morning, the garden was wet with dew. A spider web in the lemon lilies caught my eye. Without the drops of dew it would be nearly invisible.

The dew on the balloon flower bud reminds me of a tiny blue umbrella caught out in the rain.

This dewy fragrant gladiola looks especially lovely this morning. Ed potted up the bulbs to give them an early start and then transplanted them in the garden. I love the look and delicate fragrance of this plant  If we just plant them out here they frequently flower so late  we don't get to enjoy them. We will dig the bulbs after frost and store them in the basement. Ed will pot them up early in the spring. This plant is totally worth the trouble!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

She Could Be Charlotte, But We Call Her Marge

Yesterday we discovered an old friend living on a lavender plant.  It's not that we are fond of spiders, but this one's markings are unique.  That must be a portrait of TV character Marge Simpson on the spiders back.  Argiope aurantia is the proper name of this creature but for us it is a Marge Simpson spider.  I believe that this one still has some growing to do.  We have seen much larger specimens later in the fall.

A picture of the underside reveals the spider's dental equipment.  Two large fangs are ready to seize and hold prey.  We have read that this spider eats its web every night spinning a new one each morning.  It is not our habit to go out peering about after dark with a flashlight searching for spiders so no verification of the web eating habit will be forthcoming here.  The zipper in the web is another special feature of this spider.

Several years 's ago we found an Argiope aurantia living in the tall weeds that always seem to border our garden.  A description of the insect was shared with a science teacher.  He was killing and mounting bugs at the time and was interested in adding this spider to his collection. Armed with an old mayonnaise jar, he surveyed his prey from a safe distance.  Both the size and color of the spider prompted a comment.  Screwing up all of his courage, Mr. Science moved on the spider.  In a flash the spider dropped safely  to the ground and the teacher flew from the tall weeds.  It is amazing how far a man can move without touching the ground given sufficient motivation.   This spider is safe.  We will move through the garden respecting its present home. A sweet scented lavender plant is such a nice place to raise a family.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pull Some Anthers

I really have to marvel at the size, number, and beauty of the Simplon lilies this year. Standing taller than me, 5' 4", and with stems more than an inch thick, they are a sight to behold. Ed has been carefully removing the anthers keeping the fragrant white flowers pristine and pure. Since we have no plans to grow lilies from seed there's no reason not to have the blooms the way Ed prefers them. The bees can find pollen elsewhere.  Two daughter plants are growing near the base of these giants.  We will likely lift the new bulbs this fall.  Given the size of the parent plants, we will have to find a way to provide frost protection where they are.  Perhaps I can stitch a custom tarp that will ease right down over the wire cage.

There's no need to remove the anthers on the Stargazer lily. With all that bright pink color and all those spots a little pollen would never be noticed here. These lilies also possess a wonderful fragrance. It's nice to have blossoms from this one. Cold has nipped Stargazer in the bud for several years in a row.


These Turk's cap lilies were a gift from Janet and Jane. I'm not sure how many years they have been in our garden, but up till now we have never had flowers. One year an orphaned fawn bit off the bud cluster then spat it on the ground. Other years the lilies were content to produce black bulbils. I just love the way the flower petals curl back and let it all hang out. Pollen would have to go against gravity to fall on these petals. Blooming beautifully like this for days, these lilies have been a real treat, definitely worth the wait.  These three mark the end of our lily season.  All things considered, we have had a great lily display.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Valley Fog Revisited

Overnight the temperature dropped 30 degrees from yesterday afternoon's high.  The air could no longer carry its humid moisture load so valley fog formed.  We live in the north south valley of the Unadilla River.  Close to us is an east west section of the Susquehanna River.  In the above photo, the two distant puddles of fog are in the Susquehanna Valley.  Most of modern man's marks on the land are in the bottom of the valleys.  If you look past the paved road in the foreground and the farmer's field, what you see is this valley as it was when the Native Americans lived here.

Close to the left center of this picture, a near ridge is peeking out of the fog.  Stone Wall Garden is located deep in the valley between that ridge and the long distant ridge.  Our valley is so deep that we cannot see the location from which this picture was taken.  Fog brings into sharp focus the actual lay of the land.

Here we are dropping back into the river valley.  Fog is all around us.  The woods are dark and the road is wet.  Soon all of the fog will have burned off and we will have a clear blue sky day to enjoy. For now both our shoes and socks are wet from walking on the wet grass.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Poppies, Patience and Pole Beans

The onions are harvested and Ed has cleared the weeds from the garden bed. He left the flowering poppy that he knows I love. It will stand among the buckwheat cover crop that  will be planted here. It's a good chance to get a look at Ed's beautifully prepared garden bed and the straight stone paths on either side.

This year we decided to plant  pole beans for our green beans. Ed made  pole teepees especially for these beans to climb. We planned  that  they would climb up and thus would receive better air circulation  and be easier to pick.  So far these beans are unruly and stubborn. They want to climb the fence around the garden bed. That's not what the fence is there for. It is to keep out the deer so that we might actually get to harvest our green beans.  If the fence cannot be removed, we have no access to the crop.

Ed is stubborn too. He is very carefully unwinding the errant vines and tenderly placing them on the poles. This takes a very gentle hand. One has to be sure to wrap the vine around the pole in the  direction preferred by the beans or everything just unwinds. This process must be done when the beans are dry and is best done when in a serene mood. I hope the bean vines get the idea soon. Patience is a virtue to be cultivated  in the garden but enough is enough.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hummimgbird Clearwing Moth, Hemaris thysbe


Gotcha! It's a rare thing for me to get a nice picture of a hummingbird moth. They are too fast and I am too slow. They hover just like a hummingbird, fly just as fast and make the same if somewhat softer buzzing noise with their wings when they fly. It feeds by hovering like a humming bird and rolling out his proboscis like a butterfly. Notice the wire cage in the photograph. Those rectangles are 2" by 4". It's such a cute little guy and one of my favorite visitors to the garden. That's Buddleia in this picture, but phlox and bee balm are also favored nectar sources.

For once his  soft furry brown and black body is in focus. Not so for his wings. They are mostly clear and moving so fast my camera doesn't catch those.

Although I have never seen one, the adult caterpillar for this moth is said to be 5 cm long, lime green with orange and white spots and a curved horn, often bluish. A younger smaller caterpillar is green with a white stripe and a much longer  pointed straight reddish horn. Their preferred food plant is viburnum or honeysuckle. I would love to see a caterpillar, but apparently this requires a night expedition with a flashlight searching viburnums which here means in the woods. At least two generations of this moth occur each year, more in some places.

Ed believes that the thin shelled  brown chrysalises that we often unearth in our spring garden clean up will become humming bird moths. The segmented tapered end moves wildly when disturbed and we are careful to replace them quickly when the weather is cool. We want all the hummingbird moths we can get.

It was on the summer sweet bush that I noticed a beautiful large  black  butterfly with blue and white spots. I didn't have the camera, so I watched for as long as I possible so that I could look for it in my butterfly book. It was definitely a female Diana, a butterfly whose northern range is usually Maryland. According to the book a male Diana is  bright orange and black. Boy would I like to see him!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Morning in the Garden, Rain in the Afternoon

It's been so very hot and dry in the garden. Even the usually indestructible Gloriosa daisies look singed.
It was delightfully cool and cloudy this morning. Ed and I went out to spend some time in the garden. It's still too dry to weed close to the crown of desirable plants, but some  of my most detested pernicious weeds pulled out easily. I got Ed's big black wheelbarrow and filled it to overflowing. It felt so good to get some of those weed seeds out of the garden and into the rough compost pile.

Amy's "Sugar Baby" is coming nicely. It's almost a big as a softball and beginning to get its stripes.

For weeks with no rain, the yard long beans have been just sitting  there. They haven't begun grow or to vine yet, but the first blossoms have appeared. I think the lavender flowers are exceptionally pretty for a bean blossom, but if the beans develop from these two flowers, they will lay along the ground unless the rain brings some real "Jack and the Beanstalk" action.

Now this is something you are never supposed to see. Every thing I have read about my tree peony says not to let the flowers , in this case flower, go to seed. I didn't mean to leave it, but tucked under the leaves I missed it. Today I lopped it off, but I didn't throw it in the compost. I put it in my garden cart to inspect later. I can't help being curious to see what the seeds of a tree peony might look like. I have no idea where the closest tree peony grows. I have only this one. Perhaps the pods will be empty. I love a garden mystery on a rainy afternoon.

I've been waiting so long to see the garden through rain covered windows that I just couldn't resist changing the header. For those of you who are suffering from drought , I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Valley Fog

Job one today was to get a clear picture of fog.  This time of year our valleys fill with fog every night.  Hot humid southern air just hangs here.  Night time cooling takes the air to a point where it can no longer hold its moisture load.  Water vapor condenses and the valleys fill with fog.  Despite our drought of six weeks duration, plant foliage greets each new day dripping wet.  High air humidity slows the drying process so the leaves remain damp much of the morning.

We are located just over the near ridge close to the bottom of the valley about on a line with the end of the barn.  The distant ridge seen here is never visible from our place.  A lower ridge hidden in the fog blocks our view of this distant high ridge.   Wisdom that sometimes comes with hindsight now tells me that our homestead would have been better placed higher in the valley.  Tomatoes growing in the pictured field would have been dry this morning.  Ours woke up wet.

At our age moving again is not an option.  We will work with the challenges that come with our site.  Spacing plants so that they get good air circulation may offset the dangers of nightly soaking.  So far powdery mildew is absent here, as is blight.  Our garden is presently filled with lily fragrance  and bird's song.  Advantages clearly outweigh disadvantages.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Last Of The Assorted Lilies

This morning at what was first light for us, Becky was looking out over our garden when she spotted a group of Baltimore Orioles flitting about the garden.  Not all of our scented flower buds were protected by bird netting so some were at risk.  Experience has shown us that these nectar sippers can destroy a set of lily buds in a heart beat.  I raced outside in my skivs stopping only long enough to slip on my green rubber garden shoes.  Whether the marauding  birds found my appearance frightening or funny is unknown but they left the garden at least for the day.   The newly opened lily shown here was for the moment safe.

Three years ago I purchased a three bulb lily assortment.  The catalog offerings of named varieties left me unable to chose just one so I went for the assortment.  No catalog claim was made that the assortment would include only the named varieties but that was my expectation.  Two of the bulbs turned out to be an unnamed orange spotted scentless lily.  It is hardy and prolific and I am pleased that it grows here.  The identity of the third bulb remained a mystery.  Past frost damage prevented flowers from forming and foliage growth was minimal.  It surprised us with its appearance this year.  Three buds formed and developed on a strong stem.  Stargazer is likely the identity of this lily.

Stargazer was the first lily purchased here.  Knowing little about protecting young growth, we lost these flowers after one season.  Now Stargazer has returned here and we will see if we can keep alive  for a few seasons.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Holy Potato Batman ! Who Lives In that Cave?

With the lack of rain the  potato vines have died down and Ed is digging the potatoes. Most of them are small.  I don't think this one is over two inches long. Some of them have have holes and if you look closely you can see this hole is not vacant.The cave owner is peeking out.

When I went in the house to get the camera I also got a knife to get a better look inside this potato cave. I wanted to see what made the unwelcome hole in my nice new potato. As you can see there are two tiny worms.  Isn't it interesting that this red potato has turned the cave walls red ?

Both worms wandered out into view. Just my luck when I sliced the potato I missed them both. When you grow vegetables without chemicals you have to expect this sort of thing. We will watch for holes and dispose of the wormy potatoes. They will not store anyway. I have to admit these tiny worms are gross! I think I would prefer they be bigger so I could be sure to see them. I'll certainly  be wearing my glasses to cook the potatoes.