Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Here For A Day

Sometimes a surprise awaits us in the garden.  This bright yellow splat caught my eye as I looked out on the garden from the living room window yesterday morning.  This overnight growth appeared on top of the pile of reground hardwood bark mulch.  I have been taking mulch from the pile recently and that may be what prompted the alien growth.

Yellow veins through the white web are a little creepy.  The porous structure of the main body does not invite close inspection.  Touching it is out of the question.  Simon & Schuster's Guide To Mushrooms describes Steccherinium Ochraceum as prompting no interest in eating because of its texture.  No claim is made that this growth is even a mushroom.

At day's end the bright color was gone.  Investigation this morning found this growth a little more worn but a new one had sprouted nearby.  One has to be impressed with the myriad forms of life around us.  I wonder what surprise is waiting outside today.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Apparently Rain Makes All the Difference

Yesterday there were dire storm warnings for our area, but in the end all we received was some badly needed rain.  Ed's Hotline lily opened.  It's a lovely white flower with raised red spots and  a delicate fragrance.  A spring ordered bulb, this is its first year here.  We will watch to see if the hint of red in the petals grows stronger as the flower matures.

Salmon Star continues to bloom, but now with some rain the flowers are exquisite, large and sweetly scented.  Two of four plants survived the spring rodent attacks.  We hope that the other two bulbs make an appearance next year.  These have been with us for three years now.  The flower count from a mature bulb  is impressive.

Tiger Woods is  beautiful and fragrant.  These too were spring planted this year.

With bit of rain, Pandora looks perfect in pink and adds her perfume to the garden.  Fall planted last year, only one of three survived the rodent attack.  Two leaves are feeding the second bulb.  The third lost its short stalk to careless mulch spreading.  We expect that all three will be back next year.  The dormant bulbs are waiting for a freeze cycle to signal time for new active growth.

The Turk's Cap lily that was a gift from Jane is blooming and tall.  It's the first time in several years for this lily to flower.  In past years the plant seemed to put all of its energy into producing small bulbils at every point where leaf and stem meet.

Not only are the flowers responding, but the vegetables are as well.  The broccoli is bursting to life. The yellow squash and zucchini are as well.  Green beans that were stunted by the drought are looking green and beginning to climb their poles.

The coyotes appear to have moved on or at least have moved back to the tall grass.  I don't know how long the effects of the rain will last, but for the first time in quite awhile things are looking better in the garden.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Too Close For Comfort

Our four Eastern Coyote pups are becoming increasingly comfortable in our garden near the house.  It appears that this little guy is eyeing the lettuce bed shade cover remembering the great fun it provided on another day.  It is not a good sign that these wild animals are completely at ease this close to us.  How this issue will resolve itself is not clear at this point in time.

A weed killing plastic tarp is held in place by four water filled juice bottles.  Earlier we found the tarp askew and the bottles scattered about.  Now we understand what caused the disarray.  On this day the rain water that collected on the tarp is serving as drinking water.  According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, the water that we have been carrying to our garden plants during this drought is what has drawn these wild animals so close to our house.

The wooden railing in the foreground of this picture is right outside of the kitchen door.  A lesson in fear of humans is desperately needed.  I tried to deliver such a lesson but my actions may have made the matter worse.

One of these pups and I came face to face this afternoon.  I was returning from work down near the road.  The coyote was heading toward the driveway.  When I crested a knoll we were face to face at close range.  Yelling and waving my arms about caused the coyote to turn and lope off.  It used my path to the back to find cover in the bushes.  In a moment it reappeared at the edge of the path and sat down.  This did not please me.  I got my stout walking stick and headed toward the animal.  It moved into the bushes but would go no further.  No way was I going into the maze of bushes.  At best, this encounter was a draw.

If the coyotes carry off a neighbor's pet and we can prove that it happened that way, the DEC will trap and relocate these animals.  Lacking that we are on our own.  Part of our problem is the admiration that these animals foster.  Intelligence and confidence pour from the eyes of a coyote.  A sly smile seems to always cover their face.  They likely pose no real danger to us and I cannot imagine inflicting pain or death on them.  We will see how this adventure unfolds.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wonderfully Wet Flowers

Finally we got some real rain.  Here is the last London lily covered with raindrops.   We have enjoyed them for weeks.

Wet cardinal flower will make the hummingbirds happy!

This trumpet vine flower is dripping wet.  Doesn't that feel good?

Finally, a thoroughly wet Gloriosa daisy just shines.  The rain only wet the soil to a depth of an inch in most places, but obviously it made a difference!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Coyote Keep Away

It was 5:15 AM when I first rolled out of bed this morning.  When I looked out the bedroom window at the garden something white caught my eye.  It was at some distance away and there was  light fog in the air.  Before I had a chance to decide exactly what I was looking at, I saw movement up near the apple trees.  As I stood motionless to watch,  I saw first one, then two, then three coyote pups.  I got Ed's attention and he joined me to watch the show.  By this time I knew the white stuff was the shade cover I had over my lettuce in the garden.  The pups were using it for a wonderful game of keep away.  One pup would run with the shade cover streaming behind him and then another would give chase grabbing at the fluttering fabric end pulling with all his might to take it away in a fun game of tug of war.  Sometimes all three were tugging at once.  Oh how I would have liked to have pictures or a video of these three wild animals frolicking in the garden.  I did get a picture of a previous set of coyote pups playing in the same area in the past, but we were sure that if we moved the wily coyotes would be gone so we just continued to watch. They continued their fun game for some time.   Suddenly for no apparent reason, one coyote headed off in a bee line for the tall grass.  A few seconds after the first coyote was out of sight, a second followed the first at a speed that made us forget thinking about ever out running a coyote.  When the second one was out of sight the third followed suit.  Our exciting early morning garden show was over.

Later after breakfast, I headed outside with the camera to survey the scene.  Shredded pieces of shade cover complete with tooth marks were strewn about.

 The shade cover started out on a cage in the gray rectangle at the very top of the picture.  Having watched the animals play I was not surprised to find bits of shade cloth and the clothes pins that had been used to hold it in place strewn over this huge area.  We had watched them race all around here playing their game.

It was a surprise to find the label from my passion flower in the field of play.  That plant  is growing inside the stone square against the south facing wall.  On closer inspection footprints were found in the dirt all through the garden.  Clearly we arrived to witness the very end of a wild night time coyote garden party.  They left it up to me to clean up.  Just being there to witness the very end of the party was delightful.  After that much fun who minds a little clean up?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

I've Completely Lost My Cool

We actually had some rain and it was cool for a day or maybe it was two.  At least the temperature has dropped from the nineties to the eighties.  Some places in the garden look pretty good.  The cone flowers, sedums and sunflowers in Ed's garden down by the road look great!  He has been carrying water to them and the clay in the soil helps to retain the moisture.

This Scheherazade lily looks magnificent!  It is in its second year with us but this is the first flower here.  One downside to spring planted lily bulbs is that they sometimes need a year to settle in before they flower.  It took a winter potted in the sod house, a spring attack on one of its sisters by the grey rodent and several trips into the basement on cold nights to produce this flower.  Add in its scent and the whole package was definitely worth the effort.

The sparkler alliums are taking the July heat and scant rain in stride.

Ed is still out there harvesting his garlic.  I could be out there collecting poppy seed.  The brown seed heads are opening at the top, and the wind will scatter the seed if I don't get it first.  I suppose it's possible I might go back out later after dinner if it cools off.

I have completely lost my cool!  Right now I feel as hot and bedraggled as this transplanted summer sweet.  Wait, I exaggerate!  This plant looks pretty dead and I assure you I'm not that bad.  I'm just overheated.   A long cool shower should fix me right up.  The garden needs that too.  The rain that we have had barely wet the surface of the soil.  The soil looked dark this morning, but the bright sun has it back to dusty and dry.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Our Green Nutmeg Melons Like It Hot!

Stuck in the teeth of this unrelenting drought, we try each day to find something in the garden that is going right.  The picture of the green nutmeg melon patch was taken late afternoon on this clear 96 degree day.  Under these conditions some wilting of the leaves is normal.  These plants are the first to be watered each day.  Only some plants receive water and these are among the chosen few.  Sweet melons require high temperatures.  This summer may be our best chance at heat sweetened melons.

We have never had any real success growing melons.  Our summer is too short and our nights are too cool to produce a decent melon.  Their demand for plentiful water was never met as irrigation is not part of our normal routine.  Still the seed catalog description of an old time, spicy sweet, short season melon separated us from our cash.  Mid May found the seeds in sizable pots looking for a jump on the season.  Conventional wisdom describes melons as difficult to transplant.  We figure that if the pot is large enough the plant need not know that it is a  transplant.

We seem slow to understand that the purpose of a seed catalog is to sell seeds.  Reading their promises of delectable fruit while stuck in midwinter does not grow rational decisions.  A recent Internet search of green nutmeg melons turned up many tales of disappointment with the flavor of this selection.  It is way too late to turn back now.  The daily measure of 10 litres of water will continue to be delivered here.  We will soon sample for ourselves the taste sensation produced in our garden.  There has to be a reason why this melon has been grown since before the Civil War.

This is another bright spot in the midst of this sweltering day.  Sent as a free gift with a plant order several years ago, the label identified it only as a green daylily.  Its light fragrance, faint yellow petal edging and rather clear white color deserve more than status as a nameless free gift.  Planted at the end of one of our vegetable beds, frequent watering helped produce flowers.  It never hurts to keep good company.  Much favored oriental lilies are planted behind the daylily.  The water was brought here for them but some was given to the daylily.

We are ready to harvest the garlic but I am not going outside in this heat.  Early tomorrow morning, before the sun clears the ridge, some garlic will be brought inside.  It may cure in an hour given the nearly complete lack of soil moisture.  

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fade To Black

We had several sightings of the critter that was digging under and eating plants in the garden.  A woodchuck is very aware of its surroundings.  Any movement or sound sends it scurrying for cover.  My only experience with guns involved cap pistols as a child.  Lacking any military training, I pose only a small threat to any living creature.  Several shots had been sent in the general direction of the woodchuck.  Only the noise impacted the intended target as it ran to the cover of the tall grass.

Becky suggested that I try the have a heart trap.  I thought little could come from that tack as I have never been able to lure a woodchuck into the trap.  We were sitting on the shade garden wall enjoying a slice of watermelon when inspiration struck.  In this drought water for the animals has to be hard to come by.  Perhaps the woodchuck would enjoy slurping up some melon.  Two pieces were placed near the tall grass.  A check the next morning revealed that the melon had been a hit.

Today we finished our piece of watermelon.  The rinds were placed in the trap.  Soon the woodchuck was seen tentatively entering the trap.  Finally the trip lever was contacted and the doors closed with the woodchuck inside.

An up close look confirmed my suspicion that the animal was just a pup.  Male offspring are at risk of death when the adult male returns to visit mom.  The adult male will kill the male pups if he finds them at the den.  They must strike out on their own at a early age if they are to have a chance of survival.  This one should have read the warning encounters and moved on.  Now we will watch to see if he was traveling alone.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Weather, Wildlife, and Wishes

Ed has worn a brown path in the grass leading from the hydrant to the garden.   Every day he makes many trips.  The garden plants desperately need the water.

The exasperating rodent continues to invade the garden.  Even deeper tunnels are appearing and beet greens and lettuce are disappearing.  Last July 26 when it was dry we had a similar invasion inside the stone square.

This year the drought is worse.  Even the milkweed plants show stress from the heat and lack of rain. There is no way we can water the acres of milkweed that grow here.  I really wish it would rain!  I 'm sure the farmers here wish for it too.  I've never seen the corn as short as it is this year.

Thanks to Ed's persistent watering, many garden plants are still holding their own.  At least there is a chance of rain tomorrow.  If only wishing made it so!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Serious Breach In Garden Security

Since we have not had a lot of rain or a lot of zucchini, I decided to  take advantage of the squash blossoms to make  "Vicki Sebastiani's Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms" from Renee  Shepard's Recipes From A Kitchen Garden, Vol 2.  Between one rain and Ed's faithful watering the squash plants were looking good.  When I searched beneath the leaves for my blossoms, I found mounds of garden soil at the base of the plants.  Further inspection revealed a tunnel several feet long.  Garden security had been breached and the enemy had moved in right under our noses and I was worried about squash borers.  Ed filled in the holes immediately and watered deeply hoping the plants did not suffer too much damage.

 Later that afternoon we discovered that even our most secure garden location was no longer secure. Inside the fence that is inside the galvanized metal barrier there was evidence of more digging.

Whoever this intruder is he likes his beet greens, but does not seem interested in the roots.  The stem cuts are not on the diagonal so I guess the bunnies are off the hook.

When Ed removed the cage to water the lettuce even more digging was uncovered.  We do not know the identity of this thus far unseen intruder.  We have reason to believe it to be a young woodchuck,  a lazy one who wants to dig where there are no stones, live in the cool shade of my squash plants and eat what's left of our vegetables.  I understand the appeal, but there are dire consequences to this kind of behavior.  We will be more vigilant now that we know the enemy has infiltrated our defenses.

Even with the dry conditions, the garden is not a complete disaster.  Ed's Wineberry Candy daylily  is showing off its beautiful blooms.  He seems to favor varieties with crinkled petal edges.  Planted in an out of the way spot, Wineberry Candy is not getting its fair share of carried water.  In its second year here this plant has a lot of growing to do.  We must remember to bring some water here.

The delicate colors of "Spiritual Corrider"  create another beautiful spot in the garden.  When the first flowers appeared in its second year here,  we were disappointed.  Some time and growing room have erased all shortcomings.  If anything this flower is a little too cute.  Include the scent and this flower makes a lasting impression.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Boy Was I Wrong!

When Amy arrived for the weekend, she had this fantastic bouquet of flowers with her.  She received them as a thank you for something  special she had done for someone at work.  I was totally impressed!  Who could blame her for bringing them with her to enjoy instead of leaving them alone at home.  When I saw these amazing flowers, I instantly knew I was wrong about the Black Knight Lilies.  Yesterday,  I was looking at them from the wrong point of view.

With the temperatures in the nineties, some of the individual flowers faded rather quickly.  We decided to replace some of the spent flowers with flowers from the garden.  We don't often cut flowers from the garden.  It pained Ed slightly to cut the flowers and buds  but look at the results.

In a large flower arrangement like this one, Black Knight  lilies look fabulous!  I was so wrong!  Sometimes all you have to do is look at things from another point of view.  The flowers are gone, traveling back home with Amy.  Their impression on me will be a lasting one.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Touch Of Rain

Today we finally got some rain.   Both the gardeners and the plants were delighted.  Ed went out straight away to weed the peppers.  Check out the roots on that purslane, and he got it all!  Scott and Helen Nearing believed in weeding after a rain.  Today's last step was a double watering using the hand held cans.  Extra moisture settling the freshly disturbed soil nicely finishes the job.

I headed out with the camera looking for water.  Ed's "Black Knight" lilies point straight up at the sky.  I was so sure I would find some water in this lovely flower, but it was empty.  Perhaps the rain leaked out or the plant absorbed what moisture there was to be had.  To us these straight up in the air lilies look kind of silly.

The flower is very nice, but these tall lilies that must be viewed from the side look a bit bizarre.  We won't even mention the buds!   Lily Regal has a very similar flower  in color and shape.  It's horizontal blossoms will be the clear winner here.

I did find a few drops of standing water in the back of this downward facing lily.  Its multiple flowers have been a delight but the show is soon closing.

These dazzling gold lily blossoms are new today.  Up until today it looked like these "Harlequin" mixed lilies might be all pink.  One of the four plants had a slightly different leaves.  Now it's really obvious that one of these plants is not like the others.

Today's rain was wonderful.  No amount of time with the watering cans can match it.

Focus On Oriental Lilies

This Chinese Trumpet Lily Regale has been with us for three years.  Lack of past proper late frost protection has kept these lilies flowerless until this year.  In the past frost would blacken the newly emerged green tip.  Later a couple of new leaves would generate enough growth to keep the bulbs alive.  With proper spring care we finally have flowers.  These were well worth both the wait and the effort.  Pure white petals contrasted with the bright yellow throat please the eye.  Its scent is quite unlike that of any other lily.  Subtle sweetness pleases a nose brought near.   Proper care is in the future for Lily Regale.

London Lily was a free gift included with last year's order.  Three bulbs have become five full sized flowering stalks with several smaller plants growing at the base.  A faint fragrance combined with hardiness and a bright yellow color make this lily a winner.  The only problem presented is what to do with all of those bulbs.  Some will winter over in the new garden down by the road.

Who does not have a history with the Easter Lily?  This bulb was found this spring when we were preparing a bed for planting.  The neglected bulb was placed in a pot and only recently planted here.  Its short stem supporting a full sized blossom is comical in appearance.  The yellow pollen stains are now gone.  Bees harvested the pollen leaving us with a pure white flower.

It may be time to scale back our efforts with the Easter Lily.  We are at least three hardiness zones outside of its comfort zone.  Plants moved into the house in January displayed normal growth and flowers.  Even with frost protection these lilies have always survived outside but have never displayed normal growth.  Keeping enough for late winter forcing sounds like a sensible plan.

Camelot is new to us this year.  Three spring purchased bulbs were placed in a large pot.  The pot took its place on the wall just outside of the basement door.  When cold nights threatened, the pot was brought inside.  After June first, our frost free date, the potted mass was placed into the garden.  Age has made deftly handling three gallons of damp soil as a lump a bit of a challenge but it seems to be a workable option.  We could treat lilies as an annual, trading money for effort in dealing with the rigors of our frost fickle springs.  At the very least, spring purchased lily bulbs promise that we will have some July flowers here.