Monday, May 30, 2016

Searching For Wild Pinxter

At this time of the year, garden work demands more of our time time than there are hours in a day.  Since the oppressive heat wave makes outside work impossible for us each afternoon, riding around in an air conditioned car seemed the better choice.  We have known about this location for pinxter growing wild for years but seldom visited here during the time of the flowers.  This land is owned by a former student but we never sought permission to take plants here.  There is something wrong in our minds about taking protected plants from the wild even with the landowner's permission.  Our need to uphold the supposed standards of a teacher in front of students made seeking permission to dig here impossible.  The view from the road is fabulous.  Seeing these plants made our day special.

As great as these pictures are, we were shocked to find that the road crew had severely impacted this once huge area of pinxter plants.  What had been a shallow roadside perpetually wet drainage area had been transformed with the digging of a deep wide ditch with steep sides.  This artificial and unnecessary ditch could not be safely crossed to get a close up view of the plants.  Too wide to leap across and no footholds available to descend into the ditch, we were forced to view these plants from road's edge.  Countless pinxter plants were destroyed during the digging of this ditch.  What had been a shallow wet area is now well drained and dry.

After spending many pleasant moments taking in the splendor of this native treasure, we traveled to a nearby village to visit the site where we did take wild plants.  We found that this area, adjacent to a village street, had been sheared of all brushy growth.  No trace of pinxter bushes could now be found in this area.  Actually, that made us feel better about taking plants from the wild.  The bushes that we took are alive and well at their new home.  Had we left then where they were growing, they would now be wood chips rotting alongside of the street.

In view of our rather extreme lack of recent rainfall, we have added our pinxters to the list of plants that get a sprinkling can of water every other day.  Their floral display is impressive and we carry water to them in the hope that they will set viable seed.  Taking plants from the wild can bring with it the responsibility to provide them with complete care.  They respond to a fresh drink by releasing a sweet cloud of inviting scent.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Who Goes There?

Pollinators are IN in the garden.  I have several brand new packets of  "Pollinator seeds" to plant.      I plan to get to that.   My problem is who is a friend and who is a foe?  I'm a gardener not an entomologist.  Is the insect on this beautiful yellow buttercup there to pollinate or to eat the flower?  It has been nibbled after all.   If I don't know I just take my picture.  Live and let live!

The flowers here are sweet cicely.  This visitor is unknown but I think if this bug were sitting on me it might get swatted.  This is a plant I nibble on myself.  The new green seeds have a wonderful licorice flavor.  They are a favorite in the garden snack.  The leaves reduce the need for sugar and both are terrific in fruit salad.

I guess it is official, I won't hurt a fly, at least not this time.  He adds a little something to the picture of clove currant, Ribes odoratum, flowers that have obviously already been pollinated.  The base of the flowers will continue to swell and change into blue-black berries that are delicious if the birds don't get them first.  The cloud of fragrance in the garden from this plant's yellow flowers is the reason we have them.  If we get a few berries that's a bonus.  Hummingbird's pollinate this one and that a big bonus too!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Chance Of Rain

For the next few days we have a chance of rain in the form of thunderstorms. Plants need water to grow.  A good all day soaking rain would be better, but we will take what we get and be glad!  For now Ed waters the plants  with his watering can. Plants waiting in pots to be planted need to be watered often.  Plants in the garden get some water this way too.  It is not enough, but it is something.

Ed's pinxter bush was one of the lucky plants to get sprinkled.  It is easy to see why.  The plant is covered with beautiful pink buds.  This is one case where rain for its Grand Opening would be the best we could hope for. Chances are either way the Pinxter  will get wet tomorrow!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

New Arbutus Cage

Trailing arbutus has taught many lessons here.  One is that this plant follows its own time schedule no matter what.  Its season for flowering has past and now is the time for the plant to send out new growth.  The former cage was too small to contain these plants and new stems were trying to find their way under the stone wall that secured the cage.  A larger cage needed to be placed now.

We prefer to locate our transplants under white pine trees. This patch is on a gentle west facing slope.   The old cage rested against the trunk but the new cage needed to fit around the tree.  Understanding that this larger cage is once again a temporary measure, we have allowed some space for the tree trunk to grow.  Some of the bottom edge of the cage will have to be cut away from massive roots that now pass under it in order to keep the bottom edge of the cage in contact with  stones that extend into the planting bed.  These stones that reach into the growth area are what keeps rabbits or woodchucks from simply slipping under the cage.  If the growing tree roots push the cage up, that protection will be lost.

Four interior stones with visual interest are placed to prevent a heavy rodent (Big Fat Woodchuck) from simply climbing on the top of the cage to force its top down allowing easy munching on  arbutus leaves.  As new plant growth extends around these stones they will be less obtrusive and may even look like they naturally belong where artificially placed.

Two days work were required to remove the old cage and its stone walls and place the new cage.  At this point the cage will keep out the foragers but much finishing work remains to be done.  This is also the time to complete other garden tasks.  A second potato bed needs to be weeded and made ready for planting soon.  Nineteen cardinal flower plants wait in pots for their time to be planted out.  The unfinished grading work here at the arbutus bed will have to wait for another day.  Unused stones will at some point be moved to one of our temporary stone piles.  By my calculations these plants will reach the edge of their expanded safe area in about three years.  We have no idea of what to do then since 6 feet is the maximum available width for this wire.  By then we will have these twenty-five square feet densely covered with arbutus leaves.  As problems go that is not a bad one to have.  Presently we remove the cage so that a nose or two can be placed very near to the sweet smelling blossoms.  We also remove the cage to keep the plants clear of fallen oak leaves and weeds.  Seed harvest also demands a removable cage.  When the arbutus plants grow through the new cage, we will simply get by with leaving the cage in place.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Jack's Back

This spring has been a little hard on Jack.   Early flowers got nipped in the bud. OUCH!!!  This is not even the best side of this Jack-in -the pulpit  but it looks wonderful now that most of the nasty weeds have been removed.  Just ignore the dandelions in this picture.  Jack is back!!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Trailing Arbutus Flower

Here I am in the "Brave New World" of Windows 10.  Enjoy some photos from the garden while I learn the ropes.  This is a Epigaea repens , trailing arbutus male flower.  If you haven't looked for them you have missed the boat. They are forming seed clusters now.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Arbutus Seed Clusters


The season for trailing arbutus flowers is drawing to a close.  In a few different locations, some older blossoms have been found hidden under covering leaves.  Their location out of direct sunlight may be responsible for the longer season.  These flowers are not the only things here showing marks of age and we are still taking moments to savor their mature scent.

We were delighted to find immature seed clusters moving toward the formation of viable seeds.  Soon after the pink tinged flowers first appeared here, the blossoms littered the ground having been separated from the plant.  Pollen needed to be deposited on the now blacken tips of the rod like structure protruding from the center of the seed berry.  With the flower petals lying on the ground, the pollen receiver was fully exposed for easy access.  The timing must have been exactly right as every blossom in this cluster was fertilized.  That claim may be an exaggeration since the leftmost flower remains are hidden from view.

These seed berries are on a different plant at the other end of this group of transplants.  The brown tipped spent flower in the center was not fertilized and will now wither away.  The hairy stem at the right edge of the seed cluster may be the beginning of new growth.  We did see new growth just beginning to appear on other plants.  It is impressive that these female plants develop seeds while sending out new stems and leaves.  That seems like a formidable task for any plant.

Once again we missed seeing pollen laden male flowers.  This is a busy time of year for both the plants and the gardener so new pollen remains on the list of things for us to see in the future.  These plants still show the impact of the very dry fall last year.  Many of the blossom clusters formed then displayed a dead brown appearance.  Some can still be found in that exact same state.  We did enjoy many open flowers but the overall display was smaller than usual.  We hope that the hard freeze forecast for tonight has no impact on these developing seeds.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Today In The Garden

 This morning in the garden  started with frost and the uncovering of tender plant.  That was followed by sunshine and warm temperatures.  Carefully weeding out the dandelions and other unwanted plants from the shade garden is challenging.  When they are this close together it is nerve wracking.

Ed and I worked on the shade garden and the difference is stunning.  We just didn't have what it took to finish there.  Tired gardeners make mistakes.  We moved on to something else.  Ed did some mowing and watering.  I cut back many Clara Curtis chrysanthemums and a butterfly bush and pulled some weeds in the bed next to Ed's stone square.

I am pleased with the progress we are making.  However I can't help feeling that someone has pushed the fast forward button on the garden and our fast forward buttons are no longer working.  We had fun while it lasted anyway!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Garden Happiness Is...

 My daughter picked violets for me on Mother's Day again!  When she was a young child handfuls of lawn flowers were frequently presented to me.  We both remembered her past behavior that was repeated on this Mother's Day with tender fondness.

It is a gorgeous blue sky day and the clove currants have their fragrant flowers!  Their spicy scent is carried on the wind for considerable distance.  It is an unexpected pleasure to walk into that sweet cloud.

I saw the male hummingbird for the first time this spring and I got his picture.  Click on the picture and look for something beautiful iridescent and green!  Green on green is hard to separate but the bird is hovering just above the uppermost horizontal branch about one third of the way in from the right side of the photo.  Once found it is easy to spot him as his shape is different from what is around him.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Zone 8 Perennial

Lemon verbena has maintained a hold on us for several years.  In zones 8 to 10 it grows into a large bush that is annually covered with incredibly sweet smelling flowers.  Here in zone 4 it must be wintered over inside of the house with only a single year's growth.  At first glance that does not sound like a big deal, but this plant resists removal from the ground like no other.  Almost with the first insertion of the spade, the leaves go into serious wilt.  No amount of shade and water can move the plant away from its pout.  At times all of the dried leaves fall away from the plant.  Some plants never recover and we wind up watering dead sticks for much of the winter.  Finally the obvious became visible.  Now we plant out the young plants in three gallon pots.  These potted plants are pulled from the ground at the end of the growing season and placed on a south facing windowsill with no problems.

Recently, one of these plants was given a severe pruning to encourage the appearance of new growth.  Soon the tiny beginnings of new branches began to appear.  We believe that tender new growth will assume new roles as crowns and roots.  A sharp thin blade was used to cut away a new growth and a section of the old woody branch.

A dip in rooting compound preceded careful insertion into potting soil.  The bottomless juice jar fits over the pot and into the plastic pot saucer.  High humidity is needed while the new cutting starts to send out roots.  We will water these new plants from the bottom for some time.  The jar cap can be removed to allow for some air movement and then the entire bottle will be removed.

Last year all of the cuttings rooted.  We now have four cuttings in pots.  The plant in the picture has turned toward the light.  We see that as a sign of life.  If we need to start over, there are three more year old plants to prune.  The wintered over plants get a nice place in the garden to grow large and lend their sweet scent to the garden for their last summer here.