Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Winter's Lingering Impacts

Few of us that experienced it have forgotten the severity of last winter.  A not so gentle reminder came in the mail in the form of the gas supplier's terms for budget and price protection plans covering the coming heating season.  A much more pleasant result of the past cold was this freshly opened tulip tree flower.  Its seasonally correct blossoms were few in number this year.  We do not know if this plant is likely to re-bloom but that is exactly what is happening here now.  It would seem somehow right if these new flowers are a positive response to the past bitter cold.

Dwarf phlox more commonly set a second flush of flowers.  Still, the coincidence of these flowers appearing the same day as the tulip tree flowers must be a day brightening experience.  Many more buds are about to open so a picture taken in a couple of days would be more impressive but why wait?

Our Summer Sweet really took a beating last winter.  We know that it is two zones out of its comfort area but try to include it here anyhow.  Our original plant was placed directly in the path of frost rolling downhill.  All of its top stems were winter killed but now it is covered with new growth.  No flower buds can be found on that bush but at least it is still alive.  This plant is sited just over a gentle knoll.  Our frost river does not flow here.  Further protection from the stone loading ramp made possible this generous set of buds.  We are just days away from what may be the sweetest scent of summer.  We will have to kneel on the ground to really enjoy the fragrance but the effort will be worth it.

Fortunately for everyone there is no picture of the next event.  Scented daylilies are planted near the stone wall next to the road.  If one wants to inhale their scent, a walk across the planting bed is necessary.  We try to limit foot traffic across our beds so another solution was found.  It is possible to bring one's nose close to the flowers if a kneeling position is assumed atop the wall.  Finding hand holds among the lower wall stones has so far prevented a tumble into the plants as the flowers are lower than the top of the wall.  With knees and hands firmly anchored one's head can be lowered toward the plant.  That movement sends the backside skyward.  That was my position when a neighbor rode by from the rear on his bicycle.  His greeting consisted of a friendly wave accompanied by a huge smile or more likely an actual laugh.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sometimes Rain Spoils The Kiddie's Fun

I enjoyed my morning coffee this morning watching this mother turkey and her three babies.  It's easy to see these birds since Mom thinks she lives here. In fact she spends nearly all her time within our sight out one window or another.  She is very wary however and notices even small movements inside the house.  She issues a couple of clucks at the slightest provocation and the three babies scatter pronto.

Sometimes they run, sometimes they fly, sometimes they fall all over each other.  Generally it is a bad idea to name wild animals but never the less these three have been tagged with Larry, Moe and Curly in no particular order since I can't tell them apart.  The names just fit since since the youngsters frequently run into each other!

I love an overcast day for working in the garden and Ed and I decided to go down and work on the flowerbed by the road.  To people who speed by at 50 plus miles an hour, I'm sure this bed looks perfect. The masses of color are great.  However the gardener knows that weeds are always moving in by land, creeping rhizomes, by wind, especially dandelions, and by aerial bombardment.  Birds eat berries and drop already well fertilized seed.  It was a delightful morning rescuing all that beauty from the intruders.  That nasty grass that you see in the foreground of this picture is no longer there.

Garden beds and pasture grass are not good neighbors.  Coarse grass quickly reclaims garden soil as its own.  The deep mulch moat that surrounds the bed is intended to make the invaders easy to remove.  That is proving to be the case.  The grass rhizomes can be removed intact before they reach the planted area.  Weeds from seed also can be pulled complete with all roots still attached.  Hand weeding is required but the job is easily completed working the deep loose mulch.

I was happily working on the west side of the bed and Ed worked on the other side.   I was having a wonderful time.  We had just enough rain overnight so that the weeding was going great.

Ed was working on the other side of the bed.  I was oblivious, but he saw the rain coming.  At first I didn't think much about the few raindrops, but by the time I realized what was coming, it was too late.  Ed and I are accustomed to wearing white to work in the garden and today was no different.  By the time we had gathered our tools together, we were both soaked to the skin with our clothes clinging and relatively transparent.  Both of us are long past the age where participation in a wet T shirt contest is a great idea.  Fortunately there was no sign of the neighbors and a lull in passing traffic!  We headed up the hill to the house and a change into dry clothes.  We are getting more rain now so the kiddie's fun is likely over for today.  It was great while it lasted!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Nearly Perfect

Daylilies are frequently described as the perfect perennial.  For those of us that try to garden where polar blasts of frigid air are frequent visitors during the early days of the growing season, these plants are survivors.  Early tender growth blackened by frost is simply replaced with new growth.  Providing frost protection with plastic buckets or tarps is not necessary if hardy daylilies are planted.  This Prairie Blue Eyes is a visual treat.  White midribs combined with a light ruffled edge create a sharp contrast to the yellow eye spot.  It endured several late frosts but looks perfect now.

If bark mulch is used to suppress weeds and conserve soil moisture it should be pulled away from the crown of the daylily early in the growing season to reduce problems with leaf rot.  Leaves that do brown can either be pulled clear or cut away.  That is the only care that these Frosted Vintage Ruffles required this year.  This beauty is pleasantly fragrant in addition to its complex flower configuration.  In this instance the rewards from the blossoms far exceed the work required to maintain the plant.

Ordinary orange flowered daylilies are frequently seen along roadside ditches.  They appear there as escapes from colonial gardens.  The number of multicolored new varieties now available is in the thousands.  Cost can seem excessive for some of the newer varieties but many inexpensive attractive and hardy varieties are available.  A daylily clump will increase in size each year and soon supply more plants by division.  This Spiritual Corridor was an early purchase here and it will be divided early next year.

The only downside to daylilies is that the flowers only last for one day.  What was a beautiful flower becomes a slippery slimy ugly mass.  Left alone it will dry and drop to the ground or hang up on an unopened bud.  It is not a totally unpleasant task to walk near the bed each morning snapping off spent flowers.  That activity places one near the new flowers and their scents on what could be a daily basis.

We need to complete the foundation plantings in front of our home.  Part of the reason that this task has remained undone for so long is that I wanted to do it right.  Many different varieties of daylilies will anchor the flower bed to be placed in front of the living room wall.  Pleasing scents from the flowers will drift into the house via open windows.  Our daylilies will continue to bring us pleasure after we have come inside for the remainder of the day.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

This Is Our Wild Garden

The week of Garden Walk Buffalo always takes me back to 2010.  There you get to  to see an unbelievable number of gardens in such a short time and they are all so different from the formal to the wacky. This year our own garden is keeping us busy.  Both Ed and I have a part of us that likes the formal garden, weedless, with perfect plants symmetrically spaced.  If you look to the underlying structure you can tell that we started out that way.  However, as the time goes by our slightly wild garden grows more out of control.  Even after all these years we seem to plant things too close like these fantastic Table Dancer lilies.  Even planted so close they are glorious, fragrant and beautiful.

The whole garden is lush this year.  Not only do we have weeds of mythical proportion, the green bean plants, the squash and the onions are all growing impressively.  When I sit on my little garden cart to weed I literally disappear among the plants and flowers.  Self seeded favorites are coming up  all over.  Here is one of my pink poppies growing right next to Ed's bright orange Harlequin lily.  It's not a classic color combination but somehow it's still a day brightener for me.  The weather the next couple of days looks perfect for spending time in the garden.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Garlic Harvest 2014

Growing garlic in this part of the world comes with weather hurdles.  Late frosts can burn tender new growth but the real problem is with our July weather.  High daytime temperatures and humidity combine with frequent severe thunder storms to keep the plants constantly wet when their natural growth cycle signals that it is time to dry down.  Leaf structure promotes rot.  Where the leaf joins the stem a water holding cup is formed.  As the lower leaves begin to brown this water enters the stem and supports the growth of gray slimy mold inside of the stem.  Trapped water also finds its way down to the bulbs.

Two visually different varieties can be seen in the first photo.  The left most variety was purchased from a roadside stand located near the west side of Canadargaro  Lake.  I have purchased seed from her before but all of my plants died last year.  My newly purchased seed was found to be full of rot when I began to process it for planting.  Most of it was trashed but enough sound cloves were found for planting.  Sixty cloves were prepared using Daphne's method and sixty plants were just harvested.  Last fall I was reluctant to commit all of my seed garlic to the baths and peel but the results have made me a staunch believer.

The center variety is from my own seed.  A purple stripe, it grew great here last year.  These sixty cloves were planted without the baths and peel.  It is not yet ready for harvest so the actual outcome is not yet known but the plants look impressive now.

Look past the weeds and notice how the leaves join the stem.  The lowest two or three leaves have softened as they died and a pathway for water to enter the stem is now present.  Five or six still green leaves each form a tight wrapper around the bulb.  Moisture has in the past been found between the layers of wrappers.  Four consecutive days without rain signaled harvest time.

This variety was purchased from Lamb's Quarters Farm.  Here again I lost all of the plants from previous purchases.  The eight cloves deemed clean enough to plant were given the soak and peel treatment and all of them grew.  The upper three show the tan discoloration that signals moisture inside of the clove wrappers.  Seed will only be taken from the five white bulbs.  Cloves from the tan bulbs will be eaten if they prove to be sound.

Two days separate the photos of the same eight bulbs.  Purple stripes appear as the bulbs cure and they are visually striking.  One of the upper three tan bulbs shows spots of possible rot.  These three need to be moved away from the others although the other two both look good.

Freshly cleaned these bulbs from Canadarago Lake show pure white.  Their purple stripes will soon be evident.  At first glance these bulbs seem smallish.  They are small but many contain only four cloves.  Individual cloves are monsters by comparison to other hardneck garlics.  Since I prefer the bulbs with only four cloves, all of next year's seed will be taken from bulbs with exactly four cloves.  For now, the cleaning continues and the basement smells like a salami factory.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hope For The Monarch Butterflies

A very famous blue monster named Grover once said: " Where there is life there is hope!"  I'm sure someone else said it first, but that is who came to my mind while I was writing this. Serious concern for the survival of the Monarchs has been in the news, but I'm so happy that there are still Monarchs who made it here to lay their eggs on the acres of milkweed plants we encourage to grow here.

I did not see this Monarch in the field of milkweed.  This one chose to lay her eggs right inside the stone square of the garden.  We have allowed milkweed to grow in the garden and I would encourage any gardener in the paths of the migrating Monarchs to do the same.  One Monarch and 4 eggs doesn't seem like much, but I hope that this is being repeated over and over again in places out of my sight and camera range.  I happen to know where this milkweed leaf is growing.  In a few days the first instar should hatch.  I will be watching!  I hope that there are enough gardeners to make a difference and that we have not noticed too late.  But there she is, real proof that we can all hope for the best and do what we can.  For more information about Monarch butterflies, I recommend  the book,  An Extraordinary Life:The Story of a Monarch Butterfly by Laurence Pringle. It is a story to  read to children, but it contains a great deal of helpful information as well.  If we all do what we can to help we have great reason to hope!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Monarch Butterflies And Day Lilies

Yesterday I passed by this stand of milkweed plants that have been repeatedly cut off with the mower.  They always re-sprout and by my way of thinking it is good for the Monarch butterflies if plants in varying stages of maturity are available to them.  A female Monarch was working among the lower leaves close to the stem.  It would have been noble of me if my choice had been to not disturb this possibly egg laying butterfly for a photo attempt but in all honesty I had no camera with me.  A return to the plants today revealed no eggs to me.  My eyesight is not what it used to be and these eggs have never before been seen here.  Hopeful return visits to look for chewed leaves will be frequent. Becky saw two Monarchs yesterday as well.

Our Day Lily nursery bed did not disappoint.  In the three years that these mail order plants have been here they have grown into impressive specimens.  If all goes as planned, these plants  will be moved to a foundation planting in front of the house.  Near the center of this photo is a line of five purple colored flowers.  Directly in front of them are two flowers with cream colored petals with a rose colored ring.  There will be more to say about these flowers later.

Wineberry Candy is just coming into flower.  This plant was nearly lost when invasive pasture grass reclaimed the bed where it was planted.  The bed is lost to us but this plant was saved.

Swallowtail Kite is our tallest day lily.  Its yellow green center spot is so bright that it looks like an actual source of light.  This one is destined for a prominent spot in the foundation planting.

Indian Giver is the varietal name of the row of five flowers in the above picture.  The flower is beautiful while its name is insensitive.  The two flowers in front of five purple ones have previously bloomed as Indian Givers.  The change in color appears permanent as only one plant still produces purple flowers.  We have never read about plants changing their colors but perhaps this is suggested in the pejorative name.

Blueberry Candy is our last newly opened variety.  It is very similar in overall appearance to Wineberry Candy but subtle changes can be seen.  These minute differences make me glad that I do not sit on the board that decides if the plant before them is indeed worthy of a unique name.  I will plant these two with generous distance between them.  No need to make fussy comparison easy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Giant's Passing

In relative terms, we view trees as lasting forever.  It came as quite a shock to learn that this cherry tree may be gone in our remaining lifetime.  A friend that is in her ninth decade and who spent as much of her time as possible walking stream side or in the forest, said that this was the largest cherry tree that she had ever seen.  Generations of chipmunks fed on its seeds.  Orioles nested in the top of this tree.  We spent many hours sitting on a stone wall in the shade cast by its leaves.

I first became aware that the tree was in trouble this year.  Becky has known for a longer time since she knew that the bright orange fungus that grew on this trunk only grows on dead wood.  Many dead branches caught my attention recently.  Our first reaction was to find out if anything could be done to save the tree.  A local expert expressed his view that once the trunk was covered with this green growth, there was nothing that could be done to save the tree.  He said that the tree will simply fall in pieces.

Since we drive or walk under these branches daily, we felt that something needed to be done.  The tree does not grow on our land and its owner expressed no interest in paying to fell the giant.  We do not want to see the tree gone but we did not want to pass by here in danger of being hit by a falling branch.

A local family of tree cutters removed several large branches that grew over our driveway.  One son operated the chainsaw while perched on a ladder.  The other son and mom lowered the sections of  cut limb safely to the ground by limiting the speed at which the rope moved around an adjacent trunk.  Dad directed the placement and angle of every cut.  Each piece of tree dropped exactly as he said it would.

All of the equipment used today is visible in this picture.  An almost fearless young man on a ladder deftly handling a chain saw while the attached rope controlled  the severed branch's rate of fall and Dad's instructions about rope placement and location of cut were the only tools used here today.  On more than one occasion the guy high above ground was concerned that his safety might be compromised.  Dad knew what he was doing and all left the job uninjured.

After a severe pruning, the cherry tree still stands guard at the corner of the driveway.  We don't know if trimming the tree will lengthen it's life or shorten it.  In any case the deed is done.  Now it is up to what remains the tree.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Monarch Butterfly Seen

While securing tomatoes to their poles today, a flash of large orange and black caught my eye.  A tattered and tired looking female butterfly was in the garden very close to me.  Not being new to this, I decided to enjoy seeing the first monarch of the year and did not even try for a photo.  She was in front of me long enough to make a positive identification possible but was gone in the time needed to get the camera.  She had flown over our sizable milkweed patch before dropping down into the garden.  Milkweed is needed only when eggs are being deposited while she can feed on any flower.  A male monarch must be found before she needs the milkweed.

Day lily, Spiritual Corridor opened its first flower today.  The combination of contrasting colors and wrinkled petal edges makes it hard to believe that this is a living flower.  Add in a subtle but sweet scent and the total package is impressively complete.  This one has been with us long enough to be a candidate for division next spring.

Becky Lynn has a tough time getting started here this year.  Nearly all of its early growth yellowed possibly in response to our bitter weather.  We removed all of the dead foliage with scant hopes for its survival.  Survive it did and even produced flowers.  This one has no scent but sharing a name with the lady of the garden made it a must have variety.  Less hardy than our other day lilies, we should move this one out of our frost river and plant it in a more protected location.

Organdy Eve was a free gift to us that brought along with it a horrid weed.  Diligent deep weeding over three years appears to have eliminated the sedge.  Resetting the day lilies was required following each weeding session.  A sweet smell and complicated petal structure makes this variety a keeper well worth the effort needed to save it.

This was another great day in the garden.  Seeing the first monarch was a genuine thrill.  There is no question about the danger of imminent extinction for this butterfly.  We allow acres of milkweed to grow here.  One plot has been kept mowed until now so that fresh leaves will be available for later eggs and caterpillars.  For now we will continue to watch and to hope.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New York State Flower

Henry W. Art identifies the pasture rose as a wildflower.  No claim is made about its being a native plant.  I find the native plant classification shaky at best.  Our Native Americans kept no written records and the Europeans newly arrived here most certainly had favorite plant seeds tucked in their pockets or stuck to their clothing.  By the time newly arrived scholars inventoried plants growing here, the purity of natives had already been diluted.

The first picture shows a rose growing wild along our fence line.  Pasture grass, low bush blueberry bushes and briers are its companions.  Not content to enjoy the sight and scent of these flowers so far from home, a move to the garden was undertaken.  Wild ground is thickly interlaced with tough root systems.  Separating the desired  plant intact from this mess requires careful digging and considerable luck.  My first attempt failed to move a surviving plant.

A gray green poppy growing in the leaf mulch quickly identifies this specimen as a garden plant.  The tiny scrap of living plant moved here from the wild required several years in the garden to reach this size.  When mature, a single plant may span five feet.  We need to find a permanent home for our pasture rose.  It is outgrowing its current location in a nursery bed.

Since we prefer to garden without chemical pesticides or fungicides, roses have been conspicuously absent from our plantings.  With some pruning and space this rose will likely remain trouble free for years.  Infrequent thorns are another big plus.  Backing into rose thorns while on hands and knees weeding is not a pleasant experience.  It does however generate a big laugh from a nearby companion of mine.

New York State has identified a rose as our state flower.  As politicians usually do, they have left this issue with generous wiggle room.  Rosa carolina is the scientific name for this plant.  No self respecting politician could ever place the name of another state on New York's state flower.  Then there is always the issue of money.  This wild plant pays no taxes so the possibility of including the roses of commerce in the designation is just politically smart.  A photo that includes annoying insects over the mention of politicians is sheer coincidence.  

Monday, July 7, 2014

Yes, We Have No Peas

When we first came to this land two decades ago, my plan was to grow food crops.  Pesticide free vegetables picked at the moment of ripe perfection was the single goal of time spent here.  Peas have long been a favorite of ours.  This picture shows the condition of the bed after the four rows of pathetic pea plants were removed.  Fine leaf mulch applied after the peas were up did a fine job of limiting weed invasion and kept the soil underneath moist.  My futile attempts to bring these plants water during the early hot dry two weeks failed.  Our harvest was about equal to the amount of seed planted but these are soup peas.  Weeding will give Becky's volunteer poppies a chance to give us a late show of cheery color.  The leaf mulch will rot down darkening and enriching the soil for next year's vegetable crop.

Perennial flowers have earned considerable garden space.  Mail order day lilies have put on impressive growth in this nursery bed and will be moved next spring.  These plants have several characteristics to recommend wide use in our zone 4 garden.  Hardy varieties require no protection from late frosts.  A wide range of color, form and scent add much to our time in the garden.  Contrast the condition of this bed with the equally sized space devoted to peas this year and you will see the promise of many flowers to come rather than crushing disappointment.

An organized planting of day lilies that takes into account their time of bloom, color and size requires gathering information.  We  need to record the sequence of flower appearance so that something is always in bloom while nearby plants are still to bloom or are past.  A flower as beautiful as this Destined To See deserves to appear surrounded only by green foliage.  We tried dividing our clump of this treasure early this spring.  The division was placed near the stone wall down by the road.  It flowered ahead of its parent plant still located away from the protection of the river and slightly higher in elevation.  That success will encourage us to bust up older clumps to increase our planting stock and give individual plants room to grow.

Molokai is also in bloom now.  Its clear bright color and ruffled edge were the basis for purchasing it.  A vigorous grower promises that it will be a long term resident here. If the new planting is properly planned, prepared and planted, the next owner of this place should be able to enjoy these plants with little maintenance.  He will have to make his own decision about planting peas!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Where's Ed?

The plants and flowers in the bed down by the road are tall and lush. Finding over six foot Ed is a bit tricky.  I started with the easy one first so you know what you are trying to locate.

Now it's a lot more challenging to fine Ed.  Even dressed in white, he is nearly invisible in the picture, but I promise you he is there.

Gosh, I was sure he was there in this one. I purposely checked before I snapped the picture, but now I seem to have lost him myself.

He's in this one for sure.  I guess it would be good to click on the pictures to make them larger to improve your chances.  I spend a lot of time looking for Ed among the plants and flowers. I know they talk about losing yourself in the garden, but I'm always delighted when I find him!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Unnatural Selecton

It's pink poppy time again! These poppies come up every year from seed.  I'm just like Goldilocks when it comes to my pink poppies.  This one is nice, but it is too dark.

This one is pink, but it is a single and I know from my science classes taken so long ago that hybrids left to their own devices will return to type. I don't want that!

That is the reason that beautiful flowers must be pulled ASAP so that their pollen does not enter the mix.

This is the pink poppy I want. It is the one I found in my old garden years ago.  Every year I talk about pulling poppies. I hope I always will.  The original story of the poppies can be found HERE. That was my first post about pulling pink poppies.  I doubt if this one will be the last.