Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Summer Lettuce, A Garden Delight

Keeping beautiful lettuce growing in the garden requires considerable effort on Ed's part.  New plants must be started in the basement now because lettuce will not germinate in hot weather.   Here you see a tray of beautiful new plants ready to transplant into the garden.  Once the tray is empty, new seeds will be planted in the pots and the cycle will begin again.

Our favorite bed for lettuce  is surrounded by a metal bunny barrier.  After all the trouble Ed goes to to plant lettuce, we want to eat it.  Since the hot sun is so intense the new transplants are planted under shade cover.  The shade cover also protects the plants from the deer and other critters who seem to wander through here daily.

Don't these lettuce plants look happy and healthy tucked safely in their well protected bed?

What could be more special than BLT's made with the first tomatoes of the season and beautiful lettuce just picked from the garden ?  No one eats better than that!

First thing this morning I slipped outside to pick a few strawberries for breakfast and to pick some lettuce while it was still cool and crisp.   I walked toward the garden with my gathering basket, planning to cut through the stone square on the way to the lettuce bed.  As I approached, I saw unexpected movement in the stone square.  I watched with surprise and delight as two wild turkey hens and fourteen baby turkeys made a hasty retreat out the far opening in the stone wall.  Once they cleared the garden the two hens ran and the babies all flew past the shade garden and into the grown up area at the edge of the clearing.  Once there they were invisible.  Wet turkey footprints on the patio were all that remained from their visit and soon they were gone too.  Wild turkeys do eat some plants and berries, but they really love bugs.  Sixteen turkeys must have given the  garden square a good cleaning.  I'm delighted that I made the trip to pick my lettuce for today's salad.  It was an exciting if unexpected start to my day.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Elusive Wintergreen Flowers

Wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens has proven completely resistant to cultivation for us.  When we were initially exploring our new land, wintergreen was discovered growing on a steep slope that had never seen the farmer's plow.  Wild blackberry plants seemed to be overpowering the wintergreen so they were removed.  That amount of soil disturbance sent the wintergreen into decline.

Just recently a sizable patch of wintergreen was discovered adjacent to the lane.  Hiding in plain sight, its existence there had escaped us for years.  This location is again on a slope where the bedrock lies just below the surface.  The farmer never tried to plow this area.  We will make no attempt to alter conditions here.  This wintergreen will remain wild and free.

When I first spotted these waxy white flowers, I thought that they were only buds.  On a second visit a bumble bee flew away from under the bud so a closer look followed.  Growing near to the ground, these tiny lanterns are indeed fully open flowers.  Wintergreen leaves are themselves aromatic so it would be impossible to separate the scent of the flowers, if any exists, from the flagrance of the leaves.  Even if I retained any youthful flexibility, it would be some trick to get the nose that close to the ground.

Full sunlight brings both the flower and the leaves to their best appearance.  The young blackberry plant in the lower right corner will remain as I have sworn to leave this area alone.

The twin berries show that I nearly missed finding flowers this year.  Next year I will begin to look here in early July to get a better idea when the flowers first appear.  These pictures were taken on July 21st.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A Fabulous Morning In The Garden

Today was one of those beautiful days for spending time in the garden.  No rain and reasonable temperatures just drew us outside.  We have many weeds to pull and crops to harvest.  Spending time pulling weeds anywhere near this fragrant Salmon Star lily is hardly a chore.  It's fragrance fills the air bringing pleasure with every breath!

The striking red cardinal flower has begun to bloom.  We love this plant and the hummingbirds love it so much that they have now strayed from their beloved red bee balm.

I got really lucky getting a picture of a hummingbird moth on the red bee balm.  Earlier in the week the humming birds kept just about everything away from these red favorites.  Now they have so many other blooms to chose from they seem willing to share.

The hot pink bee balm buzzes with activity.  I try to give the bees their space when I walk by.  Ed tells me that they are to busy and content to bother with me.

It appears to be true.  Here Ed is right down in the bee balm pulling weeds. All the bees seemed to move away long enough for him to finish.  He believes that bees like eighth graders can smell fear and that prompts them to be uncivilized.  No fear means no stings for him.  His Solumbra shirt and drape leave little skin exposed.  Insects can walk there without him even being aware of their presence.

It was wonderful to stop what I was doing and notice the cedar waxwings trying to steal Ed's garden twine for their nests.  These elegant birds with their classy grey feathers, yellow edged tail and stately  head crest are always a delight to see and today they came  so close to me.  A beautiful red cardinal sat atop one of the tomato poles.  Many butterflies visit the garden flowers in the middle of the day.  A brand new black swallowtail flew by my head.  It was difficult to tear myself away from all the activity when it was time to come in for lunch.

Perhaps this afternoon, I will go back out to search among the weeds to pick some of my Tavera green beans. The plants still have blossoms, but there are beautiful beans there just waiting to be harvested!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Missed Arbutus Seeds

I have been watching this cluster of spent Arbutus flower parts for weeks.  These flowers displayed female parts so seed was expected.  Seed is formed in what is described as a raspberry like structure.  It seemed likely that the seed cluster would be exposed as it ripened.  Excessive time has passed.  One of these spent flowers was carefully cut free with nail clippers.  It is time to see what is happening.

The center and right most structures proved empty when opened.  Perhaps no pollination occurred.  Carefully watched all summer, nothing was ever going to happen here.

This was found in the litter under the Arbutus plants.  Since it was not attached to any plant, no certain claim can be made that it is in fact an Arbutus seed cluster.  In any event, it is empty the seeds having been shaken loose or carried off.  This year has passed the point of seed collection and I came up empty.  All I have learned for certain is that the seed forms earlier in the year.  Another attempt will be made next year to try and record the actual sequence of seed formation.

If you disregard the leaves pointing into the picture from the edges, you can see the current state of our naturally occurring baby plant growing from seed set last year.  Left to their own devices, our four plants managed to set viable seed and one new plant grew.  Our goal is to continue to fool with mother nature and spread seed in new locations.  We would like to help this native plant return with some force to our small piece of ground.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Uninvited Garden Visitors

Beating the oppressive heat by working in the garden early in the day has been our recent habit.  This morning I had been weeding on my hands and knees hidden from view by tall plants.  Just after I came inside for water, I heard Becky say, "Oh no".  She was looking out of the bedroom window at this year's litter of Eastern Coyote pups.  I was able to get close enough for this picture of four cute youngsters.  They turned tail and ran along with two additional pups that had been near the shade garden wall.  The commotion brought two adults onto the lawn ready to do battle to protect their young.  They lingered on station long after the pups had disappeared into the tall weeds.

This has been a difficult year in the garden.  Late hard freezes followed by early hot drought really hammered many of the plants.  One full month of daily rain kept us from the garden while the weeds claimed it as their own.  Throw in the young deer that seems inclined to fight rather than run and our plate is full.  Now we are entertaining a large group of young coyotes.  Last years group seemed to enjoy running across the tops of wire cages covered with shade cloth.  If all goes as planned today, the new planting of young lettuce plants will be protected from the sun by our version of a coyote trampoline.  Coyotes are fascinating creatures, but not if they are too close.

Recent local news stories report interactions between people and coyotes.  So far the coyotes seem most interested in the people's pets.  DEC warnings include advice to avoid eye contact with coyotes and to walk away resisting the temptation to look over your shoulder to see if you are being followed.  Nowhere do they suggest going outside with a camera to record the visit.  Previously, the DEC informed us that they would trap and relocate our coyotes if we could prove that they had eaten neighbor's pet.  Just how does one get pictures of that.

My actual plan is to return outside with a portable CD player.  Perhaps the music will alert the coyotes of my presence.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The One Who Lived

I've been watching this pot for a long time.    Take a click back to February 7 when  Ed went out in the freezing cold to plant my Frost weed seeds from Gail.  It will cool you right off.  For a long time nothing came up, but finally a few tiny plants appeared in the pot.  I recognized most of them as known weeds.  I was waiting for something different.  Finally this fuzzy little guy appeared.  I was hopeful, so  I took a picture and emailed it to Gail.  You can imagine my delight when she  told me that, yes, I have a Frost weed plant.

We chose a special spot next to Ed's stone wall.  It's in a place where I hope next year I can see frost flowers from the warmth of the house.

Gail explained  that the plant sends down  a tap root system the first year.  For a plant less than two inches tall, this one already has an impressive root system.  It will not flower until next year.

Ed carefully planted my precious little plant without disturbing the roots at all.

Mulched with wood chips and marked with a stone, my little plant is all set to grow.

Finally we placed a cage over it to give it one more layer of protection.  Since this plant is new to us there is a chance that it will be accidentally pulled as a weed.  The cage may serve as a reminder that something special grows here.  We hope that it will prosper  planted next to the stone wall.  Since we are north of the normal range of this plant, it will have to survive yet another winter here before it will flower.  We have done our best.  Now it is up to the little plant, but I am optimistic.  After all it is the one who lived!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Firsts

For some time we have been  enjoying our fields of milkweed flowers.  Their fragrance is intoxicating.  We are not the only ones who find it so, the meadow has been buzzing with bees in recent weeks.   Usually by this time we  have seen  lots of  Monarch butterflies flitting around but so far we have seen only the orange of Checker butterflies.

Some of the flowers have already gone past and  milkweed seedpods are beginning to form.  At last today we saw our first Monarch butterfly in the garden.  It was only one so far, but it is a start.

Ed was out in the garden early trying to beat the heat.  Here he waters the second planting of summer squash and zucchini.  This may be a little late since we usually have a late September frost but if we don't plant seed now we can be certain that there will be no more squash then.  At least this way we have a chance. We picked  our first summer squash from the garden today, and I have my eye on a beautiful green zucchini for tomorrow.

Ed has been tending his tomatoes, watching for a sign of red.  I had been watching a cherry tomato beginning to turn red and today when I walked in the garden I was thrilled to find three ripe red tomatoes.  One of them was about the size of a pea, but it was red just the same.  I had not noticed the ripe yellow tomatoes before, but there were four or five of those.  I have  to admit I popped one in my mouth right out there in the garden.  It was delicious warmed by the sun.  The rest I brought inside to join the summer squash for our evening meal.   I hope all of these garden treats are just the first of many!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Out Of The Morning Mist

It was 6:00 AM this morning when we took our first look at the garden through the morning mist.  Two mother turkeys and and unknown number of babies were right there in the garden walking down the garden path like it was their home.  Ed and I  watched for a few minutes.  Observing the wildlife is one of the best parts of gardening here.  Finally  I took a chance and went for the camera.  I knew I couldn't open the window, but I thought I would do the best I could shooting through the glass.  Surely they couldn't hear anything or smell anything, but just that much movement inside the house spooked the turkeys.  They didn't fly, but ran, scattering in every direction.

Once they get out of the short grass they are as good as gone even if they are still there.  Disappearing  in the tall grass is one of their very best defenses.  Today, they simply disappeared into the mist. 

Confident that the turkeys were still in the garden, Ed went out with the camera to see if he could capture our early morning guests.  There, walking atop the shade garden wall,  was one of the hens  with at least three babies following right behind her in single file.

Ed's presence did move the turkeys in the direction of the tall grass. This time there was some flying. All that commotion drew two young bucks out from the cover behind the locust tree.  One of these deer has been behaving in an unusual manner all year.  Normally a deer will head for the hills when a person draws near.  Rather than turn tail and run, this one squares off, advances and forcefully stamps his front feet into the ground.  Following that display he lifts both front feet and makes punching moves in the direction of the person.  So far loud noise and a falsely confident approach by the person has sent the deer away a short distance.  There is no clear winner.  Now the young buck has an impressive display of newly formed velvet covered antlers.  These seasonal tools are used to fight.  We are not looking forward to the change in his boldness that will surely follow the increase in male hormones.  This potential problem requires a creative solution.  The second deer in the photo had an even larger set of new antlers.  What we need is a poacher for hire.

There is only a brief time when it is possible to work outside now because of the heat.  Ed is trying to clean up the mess that followed peas planted here in time for our early hot dry weather.  The peas amounted to nearly nothing while the weeds are enjoying a banner year.  Two new hills of squash will be planted here when the weeding is finished.  This morning our turkeys left bowl shaped depressions where they frolicked in the newly turned soil.  The wire cage will be set in place to guard the newly planted squash seeds.

This afternoon from 3:30 on a fawn rested in the shade just above the garden.  Mom was nowhere to be seen.  Apparently she sees this as a perfectly safe place to leave  junior.  Later at about 6:00 when the fawn bolted for the tall grass, I knew Ed had arrived home.  Later this evening a doe walked through. Perhaps it is the fawn's Mom.  One thing for sure when we are not out there, the garden is far from empty!

Monday, July 15, 2013

First Flowers

First flowers of the season are helping us to see past the rampant weed growth overtaking large areas of the garden.  This Spiritual Corridor daylily was the second purchased by mail order.  Ruffled yellow edging is a little over the top but these flowers certainly catch and hold the eye.  Here again, several years were required for a sizable clump to develop but we now have one large enough to divide.

American native Cardinal Flower is rarely seen as a single flower.  Usually numerous blossoms crowd a vertical spike making it difficult to see the flower's structure.  Two up and three down with two white floaters are a combination  seldom seen.  Soon our gardens will be over run with this riot of red color.

In all honesty, this is the second flower for Gentle Ed.  The first blossom was sadly torn, perhaps by the all to common insects that seem to be everywhere now.  That is not all complaint since the Bluebirds are finding easy food for their nestlings.

Indian Giver is a beautiful variety with an insensitive name.  I seem to be a soft touch for ruffled edges in light colors.

Wineberry Candy was initially placed near the edge of a new planting bed.  Quack grass quickly reclaimed the area so this plant has faced a challenge from the start.  It clearly deserves a better location.  If we ever get the upper hand with all of our weeds, this plant deserves better siting.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Thyme For Weeding And A Trim

The garden here is lush with weeds growing out of control because of all of the rain.  Finally we got two days in a row where it was possible to spend some time in the garden.  The thyme patio at the west end of the house was in serious need of attention.   The beautiful flowers are past and the plants have gone to seed.  First I went out and pulled every weed I could find and there were plenty!

Once the weeds were eliminated the thyme was ready for its slightly over due haircut.

It was time to take a lot off the top.  If you allow your thyme plants to go to seed they will not last long and sometimes die off.  Ed made short work of this job with our little battery operated weed whacker.

Whacked back to nice green plants with  the patio stones showing is the look we need.  Thyme for a generous tip for the barber and to move on to the next place in the garden in need of attention!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Daylilies And Daisies

At this time of year here, the roadside ditches are filled with orange daylilies.  These hardy plants are also common in local gardens.  We needed something less ordinary and so we turned to mail order nurseries for more exotic plants.  Destined To See was our first purchase.  It has been with us for several years and has grown into a respectable clump.  One year we will find the courage to divide this plant.

Frosted Vintage Ruffles is in its third year here.  Last year's late severe frosts did not kill the newly emerging growth but it did end the flowers.  Definitely worth the wait, these flowers show more color than the catalog photo.  Mail order plants do offer a wide variety of choices but time is required for the plants to realize their potential.  Results like this are well worth the wait.  We will not even consider divisions here for at least one more year.

This daylily was purchased from a local breeder.  The plant was not in flower when purchased but the pot was identified as containing named variety Indian Giver.  That name is outdated and offensive while the pictured deep purple color invited purchase.  The pot proved to contain four separate plants.  Three of them are like the photo and the fourth is true to the pot label.  This local purchase has required as many years to  flower as have the mail order plants.  Results like these take time and we enjoy working with the plants during the wait.

Wild daisies are common on waste ground in this area.  Resisting the temptation to cultivate wild weeds, we again turned to mail order.  Our first order did not survive the winter.  Our second order of two plants included one survivor.  That plant was divided restoring balance to the planting.  Finally we have a decent display of Highland White Dream Shasta Daisy.  Early next spring, divisions will increase the number of plants available to us.  Perennial plants offer an unusual combination of beauty and abundance while teaching that things worth having require effort, time and patience.  Many good things grow here.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

My Apologies TO "Charlotte"!

I have always had a serious curiosity when it comes to things I have never noticed before.  Today it was these leaves that were clearly stuck together with something contained inside.   Curiosity got the better of me and I opened the package to see what was in there.

I sure hope my inquisitive nature didn't kill all those the baby spiders.  We got a fairly heavy thunderstorm this afternoon.   Clearly Mom carefully wrapped her eggs inside these leaves for protection.   Perhaps the spiders were already hatching out.  Some of them seem larger than others.  Maybe next time I will remember and leave the package unopened.  I want to extend my apologies to "Charlotte" for this time!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wet Flowers And Bugs

With all this rain the garden is lush.  The plants have all the water they could want.  There are some beautiful flowers out there and there are lots of bugs.  It was my intention to take pictures of flowers , but I soon learned that every flower in this weather seems to come with at least one bug.  It's not much of a challenge to see the ants on this butterfly weed.  Maybe it's because the flower is wet but the color seems more vibrant than usual to me.

The bug on this Lily Regale is easy to see.  Perhaps this lily would look better with a bit more sun, but any  flowers are always welcome, especially Ed's lilies!

The Lilium farolito is shorter than usual this year, but the aroma when you walk past the plant makes up for any lack of perfection in the blooms and leaves.  The tiny fly on this flower is a little harder to see.

My first first flowering tobacco flower is open.  These plants come up from seed here and I love their  evening fragrance.  Hummingbirds are big fans of these flowers as well.  On the wet white flower even this teeny bug is easy to see.

Another plant that comes up from seed is this gorgeous mallow that I got from Ingleborg.  I'm always happy to see these beautiful flowers.  The bug here is really small, but this flower has one too.

The Art's Pride coneflower was a real surprise.  We were sure that this one was gone.  We saw nothing of it last summer.  The bug on this flower is  incredibly small.

It has been a real challenge to get a nice picture of my favorite pink poppies.  Rain knocks the petals off the flowers so easily, but this one is a beauty.  The bug on it is slightly hidden behind one of those beautiful, wet, pink petals.  If you click on the pictures to make them larger, you may find the bugs easier to spot.  I won't spoil the fun, but if clues are needed I will add them in a comment later!