Friday, June 29, 2012

Late June Lilies

Sweet Surrender is the name of this variety.  We have found it both hardy and attractive.  If these flowers were scented, this lily would be perfect.  Clear white petals marked with raised purple dots are pleasing to the eye.  Knowing that the flowers have no scent does not keep me from rechecking.  A brown pollen stained nose is all that I come away with.  Some of these bulbs spent the winter potted in the sod house.  This precaution was unnecessary as the plants left out in the garden came through fine.  The potted plant bloomed ahead of those in the garden.  We really need to get this plant in the ground.

L. Davidii has been with us for many years.  Late spring frosts have blackend its stems year after year.  Meager regrowth would send enough nourishment to keep the bulbs alive.  Winter in a pot followed by a tarp shield when needed, carried this plant to summer undamaged.  Its large bud count should keep the flowers coming for weeks.

Farolito was our first oriental lily.  Purchased as greenhouse forced plants, they had to be eased into sunlight and carried into the basement on cold nights.  Several years later we are still moving this plant into the house when needed.  Farolito is the first lily to emerge in the spring.  This is not an advantage for us since the in and out to avoid cold nights lasts for many weeks. We lost two of three plants to past spring frosts so this plant is the last of its kind .  Two flowering stems this year promise two full size bulbs for next year.  Color and fragrance combine to make this lily well worth the extra effort it requires.

Orange Electric has failed to meet expectations.  Stunted growth is all that it presents year after year.  It could be a short robust plant but that is not what happens here.  None of these bulbs were moved to the lily sod house last fall.  This spring it had to make do with plastic pail covers for frost protection. Its future here may be short as planting space is limited.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Not A Relaxing Day In The Garden

 It is hot and dry in the garden.  Our garden plants are struggling while the weeds seem to be in their glory.  Until we get some real rain, it's weed and water over and over.  My carefully thinned scarlet runner beans are planted in front of the house.  That is a hot spot and the beans nearly got singed to a crisp.  Ed watered them just in time.  We will have to make sure they stay on the plant watering list.

In the meantime the several year old scarlet runner bean seeds that I had thrown on the rough compost pile already have their beautiful red flowers.  This is the place where we pile the very worst of our weeds.  Sheep sorrel, quack grass, burdock, ragweed, French weed, purslane, dock... all get dumped here.  These beans are doing fine.  They are well ahead of my cultivated ones.  I guess they will just climb up the weeds.  I'm sure the hummingbirds will be happy to sip their nectar no matter where they are growing.  Perhaps there is something to be said for letting the plants decide who lives or dies.  But that's not what gardeners do.  We chose the plants we want to grow and which ones to weed out.

Tonight I had (yuck) yet another tick for Ed to remove.  This one was one of those ticks with one white spot. Thank goodness it came off easily!  It's my own fault.  I've been good about wearing white and tucking my pants in my socks, but I had become lax about using the insect repellent.  I find the stuff extremely repellent myself!  It is my habit to put it on my clothing and hat instead of my skin.  I'm sure after a big laundry frenzy and a few days  of the creepy crawlies, I'll be back out there again.  I'll be easy to find me just follow your nose to where the garden smells a bit "Off ".          

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bright Sunny and Overheated

It was a very hot, very dry weekend in the garden.  The third of the Japanese Iris opened in the sunshine.  A pink bud opened to reveal an almost pure white flower.

Summer heat has brought on some intensely colored flowers.  This  sedum adds a bright yellow splash all over the garden.  A gift from Thelma, an old friend of Mom's, it will always be around.  It pops up everywhere.  Right now it is in its glory!

Here we see a row of Iris Ensata from seed and WEEDS!  Boy do we have weeds!   The soil is dust dry and even the purslane comes out easily,  but I tried to weed near the onions and had to stop. The soil is so dry and loose some of the onions began to lean.  Ed came and watered them and set them straight, but I moved on to an area where the weeds were not close to the plants.

We have some really hot color combinations in the garden now.  Hot pink catchfly and the chartreuse  flowers of lady's mantle add a bright spot to the stone square.

The colors of rose campion and Stella Doro lily flowers are vivid.  The grey foilage of the campion tones thing down a little, but not much.

This bright orange butterfly weed would stop passing traffic if we had any here.  I grow it for the butterflies.

Still another bright orange spot is these double orange daylilies, a gift from Susan.  I usually prefer singles, but this bright orange beauty has it's charm.  We are promised rain and cooler temperatures overnight.  The plants will be happy, but the overheated gardeners will be overjoyed.  We should be able to get out there and enjoy the color without adding our red faces to the display.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Japanese Iris

Several winters ago, I spent many hours looking at Van Bourgondien's catalog.  Images of a Freckled Geisha iris captivated me.  One was ordered but it was two or three years before it flowered.  Six white falls edged with red-violet and richly flecked with the same red-violet are characteristics of a Freckled Geisha.  My plant has only three solid purple falls.

The iris was vigorous and it had to be divided last fall.  A five foot pry bar was needed to lever the monster out of the ground.  The two spade trick made one plant five.  One piece was returned to the original spot and the other plants were taken to the back where they were planted near our pond.  Soil near the pond is rich and wild plants grow fiercely there.  The iris had no trouble claiming their place.  They should thrive in the abundant moisture near the pond.  We plan to place one plant in the water to see if it will grow immersed.

I prefer the more natural flower with only three falls.  White veins across a royal purple petal create a beautiful flower.  The splash of yellow completes the picture.  This plant is a treasure but we wonder if it is a named variety.

A new source of Japanese iris was found.  Descriptions of named varieties were featured in this catalog.  Picotee Wonder was our first selection.  White falls edged with purple were promised.  In its third year here, flower buds were finally seen.  The tightly twisted cone shows far to much blue for a white flower.  Still the process followed to unfurl a flower is amazing.  It opens rather quickly but as I stand and watch nothing seems to happen.

Cobalt blue flowers with a yellow throat are characteristics of another catalog variety called Temple Bells.  Our three year wait yielded no Picotee Wonder.  Once again the flower we have is beautiful but it is not what we ordered.

Over the years five different Japanese iris have been ordered.  Only two have flowered but a newer plant is showing pink buds.  Whatever the outcome with plant number three, I think that there will be no more of these plants purchased here.  We cannot find a spot for all of the plants that will spring from the five already purchased.  Still, we wonder with excitement what the pink buds will unfurl.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Too Hot in the Garden

Today the smart gardener was  in the garden early.  Ed was up by 4 am and spent the early hours carrying water to the dust dry plants.  The Stone Wall garden is a full sun garden and with the heat index today over 100 degrees, morning was the time to be out there.  Dawn sunlight filtering through newly opened smoke bush blossoms created a beautiful scene but the heat soon drove us inside.

Early morning is also the time to pick the peas.  We love edible pod peas.  Four 12 foot rows in the garden were dedicated to them.  I have one special favorite recipe, Sesame Baked Tofu with Snow Peas and Almonds from The Moosewood Garden Cookbook.  The freshly picked peas spent the day in the refrigerator.  As dinner time approached a thirty second dip in boiling water was followed by immersion in ice water.  Bright green and crispy pods add snappy taste and bright color to a delicious meal.

Most years this bowl is filled to the top every time I make this summer favorite and usually I make it often.  This year only about 16 plants survived in our first planting of peas.  Sadly  this is our edible pod pea harvest.  Maybe it was the seed.  I tried a new company.  Peas are somewhat fussy about their growing conditions.  It would be easy to blame our poor harvest on the weather but the shell peas planted on the other side of the chicken wire at the same time have topped the four foot fence and are loaded with peas.  Our second planting of Oregon Giants did no better than the first.  It is likely that we will return to Stokes as the source for our pea seeds next year.  Looking past the disappointment of today while planning for next year's success seems to typify the spirit of a gardener.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sparkle Strawberries

Strawberries have always been part of our gardens.  A dead ripe berry picked in the middle of a sunny afternoon has a smell and a taste that is beyond description.  We grow a variety named Sparkle.  This mid season berry is much too tender to survive shipment in commercial trade.  Its place is in the home garden.  Twelve plants grow under cover in a 40 by 60 inch rectangle.  These plants purchased last year are allowed to set a few new plants via runners.  The daughter plants will be moved to another spot in the garden.  In about three years berry size will begin to diminish and new plants will be purchased to start the cycle again.

Our 24 plants yielded a quart of berries this morning.  Some were part of breakfast with the rest sent to the freezer.  A nearby dairy farm sells berries like these for $3.00 per quart.  The work invested to produce one quart of berries is considerable.  It makes no sense for us to grow our own when we can purchase local berries so inexpensively.  Three quarts of purchased berries will make one batch of freezer jam.  Frozen berries and jam will keep summer alive for the entire year.  Actually we like to have it both ways.  Purchased berries are great for freezing, but nothing can match  the flavor of those berries freshly picked from the garden!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Ongoing Saga of the Salmon Star

On Friday it will be a month since this ruthless rodent attack on the Salmon Star lily that is planted in the garden.  The May ninth attack in the lily sod house left one Salmon Star with no stem.  Despite the risks the potted lilies had to be placed in the garden.

Ed carefully bandaged the wound, but we really did not hold out much hope for our patient.  He turned his attention to ridding the garden of the exasperating pests.  We have had some success with traps and the battle is ongoing.  Precautions continue as the stem wraps are placed around the intact plants.  We have no idea if the wraps actually deter the munching rodents but leaving them off seems like to much of a risk.

It was past time to free the remaining Salmon Stars from their pots and plant them in the garden.  Ed was surprised to find that the bulb whose stem was totally chewed off  was still solid.  Now there are four lilies planted in this spot.  We need to remember that when it is time to pot up the bulbs this fall.

Our wounded lily has managed to grow in spite of it all.  It is even making an attempt to flower.  For the benefit of the bulb perhaps these buds should be removed, and we have to give this plant a  "Best Growth Against Incredible Odds" award.  It may be that the need to flower is what is keeping this plant alive.  Dead leaves are slowly working their way up the stem.  Ed is afraid that if he takes the flower buds the plant will quit altogether.  We want a solid heavy bulb to plant again next year.

Elsewhere in the garden the first yellow squash and zucchini blossoms have appeared on Ed's transplants.  Scapes have been removed from the garlic.  The cherry tomatoes have blossoms.  The early spinach and lettuce are starting to bolt. This morning  I watched two young bucks with fuzzy antlers walk past my window.  I guess this really is the beginning of summer in the garden!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Soothing Scents in the Garden

One of the plants we grow in the garden for its fragrance is valerian, Valeriana officinalis.  This plant is well known to have a tranquilizing effect.  The fragrance is a bit odd.  Some people find it pleasant others do not.  We both like it and we are not alone.  Amy had no trouble getting several pictures of this bee and butterfly.  They were too occupied and quieted by the valerian to notice her or the camera.

This butterfly looks very much like one I saw on the stinging nettles the other day.   I still can't identify it.                                                                                          

These two  Ctenucha virginica moths were perfectly happy to stick around for their close up.    The valerian had their undivided attention. These are interesting moths.  I love those feathery antennae.

 Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day. The  evening is was delightfully cool so we had the living room window open.  From what seemed like far off came an incredible coyote serenade.  This was not a single howl, but something more like a large chorus.  We were watching a movie so I can tell you the noise outside was loud.  Ed muted the sound to really listen, but in what seemed like a just couple of seconds the coyotes went completely silent.  How do they do that?  We have big sky here and the stars were beautiful.  Last night was also the first night I noticed the lightening bugs blinking on and off above the garden.

Again today the weather is perfect for spending time in the garden.  Time to get the weed bucket, stop by the valerian for a good whiff and get to work!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wild Neighbors

When we decided to live in a rural setting we knew that many other inhabitants were already here.  For the most part we enjoy an occasional glimpse of the wild life that calls this place home.  Plant loss is part of the equation and we accept that consequence.  A partial bucket of crushed oyster shell is stored under an inverted trash can.  Snakes were discovered between the two containers.  On this day I asked Becky if she wanted to try for snake photos.  Lifting the outer covering can revealed a mouse nest in the bucket.  One quick jump to the rim was followed by a drop to the ground.  The mouse ran over the snake and disappeared into the weeds.

That bulge in the center of the Eastern Garter snake's body may well be an earlier mouse meal.  Only one mouse was in the nest where there should have been two.  If the snake is digesting a mouse, that is fine with us.  We never molest a snake when we encounter one because we want them working on rodent control.

Clearly, there are two snakes in the picture and a shed skin.  The scale pattern on the shed skin matches the stripes on the garter snake.  Scales on the milk snake are more regular in shape.  A cloudy blue eye can be seen on the milk snake indicating that it is about to shed its skin.  We will look for this snake again soon.  The bright colors on new skin are worth seeing.

It would be less than honest to fail to mention our standard response when we happen across a snake. Becky always screams with a sharp volume only heard when a snake is unexpectedly underfoot.  I always leap into the air where I remain for a really long time.  My airborne gyrations defy the laws of physics while sending me away from the snake.  You would think we would get over it, but our response is still the same whenever the unexpected slither is underfoot.

Monday, June 11, 2012

First Lily Flowers

This orange spotted Asiatic lily has been with us for several years.  Purchased as part of an assortment, it is nameless but hardy.  Two bulbs have become a dozen.  Two large pots were filled with emerging plants this spring so that they could be moved into the basement when frost threatened. While the potted lilies enjoyed the warmth of the basement the others were left to make do with plastic bucket covers.  The ones near the fence in the background are ready to bloom.  One planted out in the main garden experienced a colder night as it was located in a natural frost drain that sweeps across the  slightly lower land.  It is totally dead as are the daughter plants that surrounded it.  We will check the condition of those bulbs.  Weeks of growing time preceded the killing cold so the bulbs may have stored enough energy to fuel an attempt to flower next year.  Fall visitors are always welcome to surplus plants here.  These lilies have created an abundant surplus of mature bulbs.

We are captivated be the color, variety and fragrance available in Daylilies.  Mail order purchases give us a wide range of choices.  In the past our purchases have been small apparently lifeless pieces of crown and roots sealed in plastic bags.  Amazingly enough, plants treated this way usually grow but seldom flower the first year.  This year we tried a dealer that sells field dug plants.  Trimmed green growth was present on each plant when it arrived here.  All have grown and most are sporting flower buds.  Next year we will only purchase freshly dug field grown plants.

Molokai is the varietal name if this plant purchased from Gilbert H. Wild and Son.  Its bright clear yellow petals with ruffled edges made this a stand out.  No fragrance is claimed in the catalog listing but Ed thinks a slight scent is present.  Our flowers have opened late morning and have carried through the second day.  Still in a pot, we really need to give this beauty a spot in the garden.

Note added July 28 2012: Before you click on the link above, you should know that we seem to have gotten leafy sedge along with some of our plants.  Satisfaction from this company is guaranteed, but " No complaints will be entertained after 30 days."  We were extremely happy for longer than the first month.  Ignorance is bliss!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Waiting for the Garden to Dry Off

I made an early trip out to the garden, slogging through the wet shin deep grass, to pick a few red strawberries for breakfast.  I chased three rabbits from the garden on the way.  Our inability to get the grass around the garden cut has given them cover and they take advantage of it. Yesterday a wild turkey and her babies spent the entire afternoon in the "short" grass around the garden.  I could see the wet hen clearly, her shoulders and neck were above the grass.   Ed saw the babies, but I never did .  We really want things to dry off so we can mow around the garden.  Now it is too easy for the critters to slip into the garden under cover.  That can be murder on the plants.  It also makes it so that we can't see what is out there.  Seeing the wet turkey hen was nice, but I wanted to see the babies too!

My Clematis is beginning to bloom.

Jane's Rugosa rose looks lovely when wet and still has its beautiful scent.

Our friendly flower spider can still be found in the same iris.  It looks quite comfortable and fairly dry under its flower petal roof.

I discovered another patch of nettles along the edge of the driveway. They must have come up after the Red Admirals had passed by.  Here the plants are still green and growing.  This butterfly is not one that I have been able to identify.  I don't think I've ever seen one like it before.

The morning fog has lifted and the rain has stopped.  Perhaps this is the day things will dry off enough for us to make some progress.  Today we hope for partly sunny.  I heard that tomorrow there is a possibility that it won't rain at all.  A wise, blue, furry monster name Grover once said, "Where there's life there's is hope."   There's still lots of hope here at the Stone Wall Garden.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Still Wonderful When Wet

So far every day in June we have had rain.  Most days have been partly cloudy.  I know partly sunny is a more positive way to say that, but as a description of the weather it would not be anywhere near the truth.  Even here where our beds are as well drained as they come, anything you want to do in the garden is a muddy affair.  So far today actually is  partly sunny.  Imagine my delight when I saw this clearwing humming bird moth, Hemaris thysbe and  the flower spider, on Ed's 'Silver Edge' Siberian iris.  After getting soaked to the skin yesterday by a surprise shower, I had left the camera in the house.  I was so sure they would be gone by the time I got back outside, but it seemed worth the effort to try.  When I got back I had time to take just one picture before the hummingbird moth darted off.   I still remember when I saw my very first humming bird moth. I was fascinated.   Seeing one still fills me with delight.  Actually getting a good picture of one is priceless!

Amy's old friend , the flower spider  is not camera shy.  I think it looks bigger than it was  just four days ago.  Apparently the 'Silver Edge' iris is home for now.   The spider barely moved.  I would expect to find this spider right here as long as the flowers last.   It is very welcome in the garden.  With all this moisture,  bugs are everywhere.  I say stick around, eat all you can, have a family.  We can use the help!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

No Snow No Flowers

Here is the condition of our transplanted from the wild Fringed Polygala today.  Normally this plant carries leaves through the winter.  Initial plant activity is fueled by the old leaves.  Having no old leaves to provide energy, this plant looked near death this spring.  Its stems sported some leaf buds but they were slow to open and grow.  Flowers were out of the question but still we looked for a hint of purple.  None was found here nor back in the woods where some polygalas still grow wild.  A consequence of our snowless winter was no flowers from this plant.

We have much to learn about how this plant goes about its business.  Our pictures show flowers surrounded by new leaves.  Other pictures show old leaves behind new flowers.  Wildly different growth patterns raise more questions than answers.

A brief search of the woods revealed no plants.  Not certain of their exact location, I was reluctant to tramp about looking for them.  They did not need to feel the impact of my boots.  Insignificant leaf growth would be difficult to spot under the other plants that also grow there.  For now we do not know if any of the wild plants survived winter.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Unleashed Monster

We have an unusual history with Yellow Flag, I. pseudacorus.  Many years ago while Ed was still teaching, a lad from the special class brought a clump of this plant to school for his teacher.  He had pulled it from the river flat on his way to school.   A lesson in never taking plants from the wild was delivered and a piece of this treasure came home with Ed.  We planted it in an inside corner of the stone square where its leaves provided a background for other plants.  The sword like bright green foliage looked great all summer.  The plant spread and seeded with great abandon. We soon tired of hacking it back.

Still ignorant of the  plants history and invasive nature, we moved a few small pieces back to our pond.  Some were planted in the water and others were planted on land at pond's edge.  All survived and it appeared that we had returned a native plant to its natural surroundings.

Some of the land between our home and the road is to steeply sloped to safely mow.  Underlying gravel keeps it very dry and I thought that we would try yellow flag here as a no care ground cover.  The lack of moisture has slowed its spread here but it is alive and well.

Time for a reality check.  Despite the fact that this plant was found in the wild it is not native to North America.  It was moved here from Eurasia as a garden plant and it has escaped cultivated settings.  This huge vigorous pest has naturalized elsewhere and is displacing our native Northern Blue Flag.  We also grow Blue Flag here and find it hard to believe that anything can crowd it out.  It too is a vigorous spreader that seeds freely.

I have no idea how to offset the damage that we have done.  Our pond will soon be full of Yellow Flag as will the wet areas around it.  This is not the first instance of an invasion by a plant that was moved for amusement and profit around gardens.  We have made this mistake several times but never on so grand a scale.

Too Many Caterpillars, Not Enough Stinging Nettles

All of those Red Admiral butterflies laid a lot of eggs.  It was exciting to see them flitting around the nettle patch, and it has been fascinating to observe the behavior of the caterpillars.  But now it has become obvious that there are still more caterpillars and the nettles are running out.

Most of the nettle plants look like this.  The tops of the plants have more holes than Swiss cheese and the lower leaves are just gone with only stems remaining.  The early caterpillars made out well.  Some of these later ones will either have to find something else to eat or perish.  At least here this year's record number of Red Admirals is being limited by the available food supply.  That is Nature's way.  It is just hard to watch!

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Close Look at Iris, Photos by Amy

It's fun to focus the camera on the incredible colors and intricate patterns of iris in bloom.  Here  velvety blue petals of 'Silver Edge', Siberian iris, make a beautiful  home for a flower spider, Masumena vatia.

This spider is supposed to be able to change colors to match its surroundings.  Apparently white to yellow is common.  Here the spider looks to me like it has a definite tinge of blue.

I love this shot of Mom's iris.  The velvety purple petal with white streaks and a delicate white edge combine with  ruffled white petals to make a gorgeous photograph.  Amy captured everything but the fragrance.

'Ego' is a perfect name for these deep blue iris.  There is nothing shy about these frilly blossoms.  Perhaps we can consider the black bug in the lower right of the picture to be a beauty mark added to accent the lovely curve of the nearby petal.

Blue flag, Iris versicolor, is a native here in New York.  It is a slender wild relative, but it still shows the deep color and intricate patterns to rival its many well bred iris cousins.

This overhead shot really shows off the gold pattern on the lower petals.  Nature comes up with fascinating designs.  The petals have been nibbled on by some insect.  Most of the iris flowers are experiencing insect attack.  2012 in the Stone Wall Garden appears to be the year of the insect!