Sunday, August 31, 2014

August Beauty, Photos By Amy

When Amy walks through the garden with the camera you can always count on having many fantastic pictures to choose from. It is not easy.  The Mammoth Pink chrysanthemums are beginning their stunning display.

I could not decide if I prefer the bold close-up, or this picture where the beauty of the mums is demurely concealed  by neighboring plants.  Of course we are always pleased to have one of Ed's walls in the background.  The remaining lily stalks, fine perennial flax foliage and speckled Gloriosa Daisies add a lot of interest to this picture.

There are few bee balm flowers left.  The hummingbird, butterflies and hummingbird moths usually seen on these flowers seem to have been replaced with ants.

The brilliant red of this cardinal flower would capture any photographer.  I can tell right away where this flower is growing.  It stands in front of the only wall I ever built here.  It lacks the perfect horizontal lines of Ed's work and has diagonal lines that make it mine. Just the same, it still stands together with his  in the garden square after all these years.

The red color and fuzzy texture of these sumac berries make me want to reach out and touch them.  This winter they will get the bird's attention.

Summer Sweet, Clethra, is a favorite plant of Amy and Ed.  It's sweet aroma is a reminder of hiking trips taken together.  We have both white and pink growing here.  The flowers open from the bottom to the top and all of the stages are here to see.  I have to wonder what is eating the leaves.

I love sunflowers.  They are so cheery near or far.  I do believe that is a real honey bee working the spiral of tiny flowers.  This sunflower has just begun to bloom. Its flowers will spiral in  until the last ones open in the center.  We get to enjoy its sunny face  all that time.

I saved my favorite for last.  A beautiful purple, prickly thistle and the garden wearing an asparagus fern veil is a study in texture and color.  It takes an artist's eye to turn my unweeded asparagus bed into such beauty.  Thanks Amy, I'm so glad to be able to see it that way!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Seasonal Adjustments

Almost without notice our focus in the garden has shifted.  Planning for the current garden is long past and we are now looking forward to next season.  For me the major excitement is starting seeds, dividing perennials and planning where to place them.  Many Winter hours are spent reading catalogs. Harvest should be a time of joy if the crops are abundant, but it also clearly signals an end to the process.

These Dakota Rose potatoes are both beautiful and numerous this year.  We mail order our seed from the Potato Garden.  By the time our order is processed, most of the country has their potatoes in the ground.  I prefer to plant whole small potatoes.  This year our order arrived when requested and consisted of numerous small seed potatoes as requested.  The metal basket contains the harvest from only three hills.  Pound for pound this has to be a record crop.  Good luck and frequent rainfall are no doubt the key factors here.

Our nursery bed has allowed these mail order day lilies to put on good growth over the past two or three years.  Nearly all of the flower stalks have been removed as have the dead leaves.  I always manage to miss a few.  We will move these plants to a more spacious final location come Spring.  It is highly likely that new mail order plants will refill this nursery bed.

The weeks of bright blossoms, many with sweet scents, were a source of grand enjoyment.  The flowers were wonderful but now they are gone.  That is the name of the game but somehow sadness with the season's passing is close by.

This nameless plant produced many light yellow scented flowers.  We took a division from it earlier this year and placed it near the wall in the garden down by the road.  The newly separated plant flowered in its new and likely final location.  Driving the road toward home, we saw the flowers rising  above the wall.  The scene was impressive with the plant mostly hidden behind the wall.

Here, the plant is close to Mammoth Pink Chrysanthemums.  This combination should work well together.  If the day lily were planted behind the chrysanthemums it would appear that the combination was better planned.

Somehow our days have come to be one hour shorter than previously.  Sunlight streaming through the bedroom window formerly had us up and active by 6 am.  Now we are lucky to roll out by 7 am.  This is just another in a collection of seasonal adjustments.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You Have To Look Past The Crabgrass

Coming upon the end of August, there is a great deal of beauty and success  in the garden, but you have to see past the crabgrass.  The many rainy days this summer have made the plants and flowers grow.  Included in that is the plants and flowers of weeds.  Worse than that are the seeds of weeds.  I have a long list of hated weeds crab grass, mare's tail, French weed, quack grass,sedge, ragweed,... and I really hate it when they go to seed.  When I get out to the garden I can lose all track of time.  Every weed with seeds that I pull gives me a great feeling. At least I know those seeds will not get to drop in my garden bed.   I load my trug  then take them back to the place where we are putting the pernicious stuff. It's hard to walk through the garden without a handful of weeds. Sometimes by the time I get back to the spot where I was working, my trug is already half full of weeds.

All this sound tedious to some I suppose, but I love to pick a spot and go after them. It feels fantastic to look where you have been and see them gone!  When I take a break and look up , the sky is a glorious blue.  The pink hollyhocks are climbing for the clouds.  Sometimes you see a hawk circle. Often the hummingbirds whiz past your head .  I think they do it for fun.  Butterflies and hummingbird moths look for flower nectar.  Dragonflies look for bugs.  For such a quiet place there is a whole lot going on all the time.

The red hibiscus are just beginning to open.  Even with so many flowers finishing their summer bloom period we have late bloomers yet to come.  Yes, there is a Japanese beetle inside the flower.  I tried to catch him, but he got away.  We have had too many Japanese beetles this year. I used to hate to  kill anything, but I have grown to know the enjoyment  of my gloved hands squeezing mating beetles into a brown pulp.  I accidentally discovered that Japanese beetles that have been eating red bee balm  make a red pulp.  I'll be back to find out if hibiscus has the same effect.

I know I'll never get all the weeds, or all of the Japanese beetles, but I make a little progress every time I go out there.  It feels so good!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Where The Beans Were

Green beans grew in this bed this year.  One row of Tavera and one row of Romano provided us with a generous harvest.  Several bags of these beans are now in our freezer.  When snow covers the ground, our own beans will make a welcome addition to mealtime and provide a connection to a successful harvest.

Using fallen leaves as mulch was an experiment here this year.  Once the beans had sprouted, the leaves were gathered in the woods and placed whole around the bean plants.  The combination of lush growth by the beans and the covering leaf mulch totally eliminated weed growth.  This is how the bed looked after the beans were pulled at final harvest.  Tree leaves form an airy mulch that conserves moisture, prevents weed seed germination and does not promote plant rot.  It also looks much better than the grass clippings under the adjacent squash plants.

In the past, leaves forced through a wire screen have been used to mulch our peppers and basil plants.  The finer screened leaves rot down during the growing season and are simply turned under after harvest.  Time needed to grind the leaves is the only disadvantage to this method.  When the beans needed mulch, there was too much to do so screening was omitted.  Today, I needed fine leaf mulch and the time needed to prepare it was available.  Swirling gloved hands over the leaf covered screen is not an unpleasant activity.  Firm pecs and perfect mulch are the result of a few minutes work.

These recently planted kale plants were rescued from a smothering growth of purslane and other persistent weeds.  A layer of fine leaves will keep new weeds away and allow the kale to grow without competition.  Not every kale seed planted germinated.  The ones that did sprout now look like a character from the Chinese alphabet.

A quick pass with the stone fork made this soil ready for buckwheat seed and a light covering of compost.  We will then return the wire cage sides to protect this fine dirt from turkeys seeking a dust bath.  A wonderful morning spent in the garden resulted in sixty square feet of prime garden soil prepared for next season's crop.  The kale was also treated well and I have, for the moment, avoided owning a pair of saggers.  Working out at the gym does not give the same satisfaction.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Tavera Beans, Ces Sont Manifique!

I absolutely adore these French filet green beans.  The seeds we got this year are marked Tavera, Phaseolus vulgaris.  I got them from Botanical Interests seed company.  I noticed the also have another French filet bean with the same Latin name, but a different package. Perhaps I will try both kinds, but then again I love the flavor of the ones I have.  Why would I take a chance on something else?

Pulling up the plants and picking the remaining beans might have been a morning's work, but Ed's leaf mulch worked well and I did not have to stop to pull a lot of weeds. That made for quick work.  I did have to discard quite a few nipped off beans.  Some critter that got through Ed's cage thinks that Tavera beans are tres bon as well.  I guess I should not mind sharing, but I don't like having a rodent chewing on my food before I do!  The last of these lovely green beans are waiting in the freezer to bring back memories and  flavor from the garden just when we miss it the most!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cardinal Flower From Seed

Cardinal Flower is truly a native plant.  Early explorers sent samples collected in the Saint Lawrence River valley back to France where it received its common name.  Despite its initial discovery well north of our location, we have encountered problems wintering it over.  Some of our Winter cold air rolls down from the high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains creating a sliver that is a zone colder than the surrounding areas.  In addition to the extreme cold, we are gardening atop a deep glacial gravel deposit that is on occasion nearly desert dry.  Cardinal flower prefers to grow near streams where a constant source of moisture is nearby.  Despite the dryness and the cold, the plant survives here but only in small numbers.

This photo almost clearly shows the final form of an individual flower.  Later in the day the white "eyes" will extend outward above the five red petals.  Unopened neighbors keep this picture uncluttered and that is not usually the case.  If the photo had been snapped later in the day, the buds would have opened and finding a single flower would then be nearly impossible.

We have encountered several written descriptions of the ease in propagating Cardinal Flower from seed.  Some how we have always weeded out the seedlings since we did not know what they looked like.  Dumb luck may have changed that.  These weeds were spared on the chance that they are new Cardinal Flowers.  Their leaf form does not closely resemble mature plants but they do have the white stringy root mass encountered with adults. We will watch and perhaps learn.  If these are as expected, they will flower in their second year.  If we can just remember what we may have discovered, then Cardinal Flower may become more common here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Closing The Lily Show

These Simplon lilies are the last lily to bloom here.  They have been with us for several years, increasing in both height and in the number of flowers.  Last Fall, I summoned up all of the courage available to me and dug up the precious bulbs.  Three giants were moved to the center of the stone square while the remaining group were replanted where they were.  Four separate stems emerged in the center location and they have done well there.  Their former grandeur of nearly six feet tall remains in the future but we are pleased with the present display.  Overnight rain left the flowers speckled with water droplets.  Simplon's sweet smell fills the calm moist air.

The wire cage separating us from the flowers was a last minute precaution to guard against the marauding woodchuck.  It has abandoned, for the moment, plans to burrow inside of the stone square but I have been repeatedly unsuccessful in closing another den in a nearby sod pile.  This battle is not yet finished.

A combination of pure white and an incredibly sweet scent makes this lily a high point of the entire growing season.  Couple that with the challenges of growing Oriental lilies in our cold climate and success like this is especially sweet.

We have a stack of extra large plastic garbage cans on hand ready to protect when late Spring frosts threaten our lilies.  These were planted with no nearby neighbors so the covering pails will do no damage to adjacent plants.  By leaving these lilies undisturbed, we hope that each year will see taller stems and more numerous flowers in the center of our garden.

This sole survivor is all that remains of our original three Pandora lilies.  A small furry rodent nearly ended them all.  It appeared that she planned to use the cut lily stems and leaves to line her nest.  Nothing cut was eaten but a cozy den was under construction.  I caught her in the act of felling a lily like a logger cuts a tree.  Bird shot in my 22 improved my aim.  She will not be back!  In some ways I miss the coyotes.

The sight and scent of these lilies has us in high gear getting ready for next season's garden.  Now each day in the garden starts with filling a five gallon pail with weeds.  Newly cleaned planting beds need wire cage covers to keep the turkeys that truly own this place from taking dust baths in the smooth loose soil.  The chrysanthemums and asters are just beginning to show bits of color.  There is still much of this year's garden left to enjoy.  Fallen leaves are just beginning to line the lane and our thoughts slip into plans for the next garden.  The wheel just keeps turning.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tunnel Warfare

At this time of year lush plant growth has created hiding places all around the garden.  Just recently, Becky was startled when a deer burst from this area.  Apparently the deer had spent the night secluded near the anise scent of sweet cicley.  This new pile of subsoil was our first indication that we had another visitor.  A woodchuck was building its new home along and under my first stone wall built here.

This is actually the second entrance to the new burrow.  The first was in the corner with a hidden tunnel running underground at wall's edge.  That entrance was filled and the tunnel flattened.  This new entrance was opened the following day.  Mixing my prime dark carefully prepared garden soil with the nasty yellow subsoil was one of many issues with the new tenant.  What is holding in place the undermined wall stone is a bit of a mystery.  We tried to pack the soil into the hole to firm up the support of the hanging stone.

A probe of the tunnel with a board revealed the nearly three foot length of the hole.  Packing the fill under the wall needed to be done.  Thinking that my previous closure had trapped the woodchuck inside, water was brought to the scene to try and force the tenant out.

Water is now running into the hole and a dispatch tool is ready for use.  Considerable time was needed to fill the hole with water.  The hole was large and our soil does not retain water.  No woodchuck was driven from the hole so no shots were fired.

Applied science returned nearly all of of the excavated dirt to the hole.  Anyone that has ever dug a hole knows that all of the removed dirt never goes back into the ground.  There is always a pile of dirt left over.  Water completely changes the physical behavior of dirt.  Plastic and pack-able, it was driven back into the hole.  Our hope is that no large voids remain under the wall.  Burrowing animals are one cause of slumps that form in old stone walls.  Over time the wall settles into the hole created by a woodchuck.  We hope that our application of a cement of sorts will prevent this unfortunate action from occurring here.  We also hope the this animal has learned that its home here will come with a high cost and that it simply moves on.  We are on alert and watching!

Friday, August 8, 2014

My Goodness What A Day In The Garden!

I headed out to the garden pretty early to pick squash blossoms to stuff for lunch.  It would have been a bit less exciting if I had gotten outside earlier.  As it was I had to shake bees out of the blossoms before I could place them in the plastic bag.  On my way out I noticed this milk snake curled up in the stone wall.  I promised myself I would take a picture if it was still there on my return.  There it was right at my eye level.  It looked like a fancy bracelet.  Ed and I did a couple rounds of "You touch it! " "No you touch it!"  In the end even though snakes give the the willies, I did touch it lightly.  It barely moved and was soft and dry to the touch.  Maybe someday I won't shriek when a snake surprises me, but I doubt it.

Woo Hoo!  I present to you the first Monarch caterpillar I have seen in the garden this summer.  In this picture it's a little hard to tell which end is up.  We watched it for some time and decided that the end with the shorter horns has the mouth.

I noticed him sitting on an immature seed pod.  Usually I find them chomping on the leaves.  I was delighted to see him!  I hope there will be more!  Our mowed area is looking a little strange as Ed avoids mowing the young milkweed now growing in our lawn.  He is unwilling to take the chance of cutting down a caterpillar food source.

We have left milkweed growing in the garden in places we would normally weed it out.  Here we have a lovely planting of Black-eyed Susans with three milkweed plants.  All of these plants are invasive and have displaced what we planted there.  In time we may see the winner here but perhaps both plants will survive.

We had a busy day in the garden.  We harvested onions, picked and processed Tavera green beans, picked some tomatoes, pulled lots of weeds and Ed mowed some the hay field that we pretend is our lawn.

We also discovered that a ground hog has dug a tunnel under one of Ed's stone walls in the square.  A huge pile of stones and yellowish subsoil was piled in the corner.  No end of the tunnel could be seen.  The ground gave way under foot revealing a six foot tunnel running parallel to the wall.  That critter doesn't know it yet, but he has crossed a line and war has been declared.  I gave up one of my heads of broccoli to bait the trap.

I also discovered an active hornet's nest under the ramp into the kitchen.  In the past a neighborhood skunk took care of a nest of ill tempered bees for me.  I'm afraid where this one is hanging Ed will have to come to the rescue like he so often does.  Tonight a big yellow moon shines on the garden. Tomorrow looks like another wonderful day to spend in the garden.  What will it be relaxing or infuriating?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Love Those Lilies

As one ages perhaps a little good judgement is lost.  The daylily being sniffed did not even warrant a varietal name.  Included as a free gift in an order delivered many years ago, we find it special.  Its near white petals have a ruffled edge, the eye spot is bright green and the fragrance delicious.  Why else would a seventy year old man perch with his knees against hard stone just to get another whiff.     Fortunately, Becky was kind enough to snap the photo from the side.

Oriental lilies are presently putting on quite a show.  These Salmon Stars are planted downhill by the road.  That small difference in location has these in flower while the ones planted up near the house show only small tight buds.  We plan to try to cover these in place when late Spring frost threatens.  Ample space surrounds these plants so a plastic garbage can can cover them without smashing neighbors.  By not subjecting these bulbs to the stress of potting up, we hope that they will increase in number.  I almost failed to mention the sweet scent drifting from these flowers.  These are a treat for both the eyes and the nose.

These Golden Stargazers overwintered in a pot.  That places the three original bulbs in close proximity to each other.  Here again, they are now planted so that they can be covered in place next year.  A sight to see and a delight to smell, we hope that they also increase in number.

Scheherazade is the name given these lilies.  At first, the maroon color was under appreciated here.  A bright green throat edged in yellow is a powerful contrast to the dark petals.  Planted near the Golden Stargazers, we cannot be certain which is the source of the scent but tend to believe that Scheherazade is scented.  These endured attack in the sod house this Spring.  Two of three have flowers while the third has enough stem and leaf growth to build next season's bulb.  They were all gorgeous today!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Certain Sadness

This time of year presents mixed emotions for those of us who garden.  Without notice efforts have shifted from the race to get ready for this year's garden to work directed toward next year.  A last flower and a last bud signal the end of the floral display for Gentle Ed.  Spent scapes are gone.  A few weeds are gone and the mulch is in place to carry this plant across the next two seasons.  Those of us who live this far North know all to well the name of that second season.  We usually experience our first frost before the end of next month.

Mom's Gatchellville Iris were timely divided and spent the hot days of July with their rhizomes exposed to full sun.  I find it hard to believe that this sun scald is good for the plants but it seems to be working.  New mulch was pulled away from the base of the iris to keep the sunburn coming.  Gatchellville, Pa. is the name of Becky's maternal grandmother's home town.  The family has taken these iris with them at every move.  They are well traveled and it feels good to maintain family connections.

Anise hyssop is the foreground plant with the purple flowers.  Golden stargazer lilies are planted nearby.  Native to our Great Plains, Anise hyssop is a fantastic butterfly plant.  This morning while looking out of the living room window, I saw a Monarch butterfly feeding on this plant.  It was up and working before I had managed to find the door.  Anyone interested in trying to help these butterflies survive could include this plant in their efforts.  The adults need milkweed as a site for eggs while Anise hyssop serves as a great food source for the fliers.

Cardinal flower is another colorful native that feeds butterflies.  This plant has so much going for it that I cannot imagine a garden without it.  Sheltered by my stone wall, this plant survived late hard frosts on its own.  Now, it is simply a feel good plant.  Just look at that red color.  The black seeds are on the sweet ciceley.  It's native, but we have wild populations growing here because of our actions. It does well among the ancient apple trees that line the steep slope of our kame terrace.

A basket of sun ripened and sun warmed tomatoes will chase away any feelings of sadness.  Italian Goliath is the varietal name of the pinkish colored tomatoes.  One of them completed my lunchtime BLT sandwich.  This is the only time of the year when we eat real bacon.  A BLT cannot be made without it and that sandwich is one of the reasons why we grow tomatoes.  This is also the only time of the year when we eat fresh tomatoes.  Garden fresh has totally turned us off store bought tomatoes.

Lunch dessert consisted of fresh warm black raspberries and vanilla ice cream.  This is without question a splendid time of year if one can maintain focus on the present day.  Harvest and flowers are what gardening is all about but both signal that an end is near.