Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Arbutus Seeds In Two Colors

Our lofty goal with arbutus is to have them successfully self seed and produce new plants totally on their own.  So far that has not happened here.  One plant from seed did appear here but that seed was in the soil that was moved with the transplant since no seeds formed immediately following the move.  We have no way of knowing just how many seasons passed before the seed germinated.  We do know that neither the recent seed left alone, nor the seed I tended, have produced any new plants.  Reading has not offered any information about the natural cycle of these seeds.  Some do report success germinating seed under cultivation but that has eluded me.  This year the seeds will be left alone.  Whatever happens to them will not show my fingerprints.

Our planting near the arbutus wall had many clusters of developing seed this year.  Watched almost daily, the opening of the seed berries escaped our notice.  Generous new growth spread over the developing seed making it difficult to see just what was happening underneath.  When the cage was finally removed and careful inspection was made, all of the seed clusters were open and picked clean.

Five is the number that describes many parts the an arbutus plant.  Each seed berry shows grooves that split the whole into five sections.  Five green covering membranes have peeled back to reveal the ripe seed.  One might wonder if there is any significance to the different colors of the seeds.  Arbutus does have male and female plants.  Might there be a connection between the color of the seed and the gender of the plant that springs from it?  Since I have been unable to get the seeds to germinate, there will be no exploration of that question here.

This plant has another cluster of seed berries tucked under leaves on the far side.  It is difficult enough to get photos that are in focus at this close range without fooling around with hidden subjects.  It is unfortunate that the row of seed clusters on the other planting opened unnoticed.  They would have made a truly impressive picture.  There is always next year and we intend to try again.  As it is this photo is impressive enough.

A return visit was made one day after this picture was taken.  Both seed clusters were picked clean.  Ants are fond of the white mass that supports the seeds.  Chunks of it are removed and carried back to the ant hill as a food source.  Seeds fall off on the journey or are tucked away inside of the ant's home.  In any event no seeds now remain with the parent plant. We do not know how long the seed cluster was open before it was eaten.  We shall keep a sharp lookout for new plants from seed in the area surrounding the parent plants. The beginning of a time line has been noted.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lily Buds For Breakfast

Each of these pictures feature a different group of Asiatic lilies that have lost their buds.  Together these plants would have put on a stunning display of about five dozen flowers.  That dazzling presentation was just days away.  Now there will be no lily flowers here this year.  Earlier this season, plastic cans of various sizes protected these plants from late freezes or frosts.  The largest cans were needed here and other lilies suffered frost burns since their smaller can covers contacted the tops of the plants.

We have been enjoying this unnamed variety for years.  Purchased from Breck's as an assortment of Oriental lilies, disappointment presented itself the first season.  Only one of the three bulbs were Oriental and it disappeared after the first season.  The two survivors were hardy beyond description.  Many new bulbs grew and survived our attempts to divide them.  We had enough bulbs for five different plantings.  It is time to divide them again after this season. Perhaps a group of six of the largest bulbs will be planted in the center of the stone square in front of the house.  There the group can be protected by a large wire cage.  That plan does present the problem of covering six young plants to protect from frost.  Perhaps four plants would be a more workable solution.

The deer have never before eaten from this garden so close to the road.  Our weeks without rain has impacted their food supply and changed their habits.  If these buds were tasty, raids on our daylilies may soon follow.  Caging in such a densely planted area will damage other plants.  This appears to be a problem without a solution.  With no flowers taking energy from the plants, perhaps the result will be large healthy bulbs.

The good news is that we have enjoyed our second consecutive day of measurable rainfall.  We have been so long without rain that people were walking about outside during the height of the storm.  We all got soaked but that sure felt good.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Deer Everywhere

June has seen at best a single rainstorm that gave us less than one tenth of an inch of rainfall.  Weather systems carrying moisture pass either north or south of us.  Our plants are nearly surviving on the dew that forms each night.  A chosen few get a sprinkling can of well water during the early hours of the day.   Hours are spent each day carrying water to the plants.  I have become such a regular part of this scene that a bird recently landed atop my hat like I was a fountain in a park!  That was a first for me.

This coral bells is directly in front of me in the first photo.  The deer seldom come inside of the square but the field grasses are crunchy dry.  Moist plants that received water from the sprinkling can appear to now be at risk.  More wire cages might be an answer but one of my larger rectangular cages was flipped on its back by some animal.  That has never happened here before.

This white phlox is to my right in the first photo.  Cut stem ends show that a deer trimmed this plant to the height of the cage.  Phlox are at risk early in the year but the foragers have moved on to other food sources by now in a normal year.  Taller cages are unsightly but may become necessary.

We call this plant Inga's mallow in memory of the gardener that first gave us this plant.  It self seeds and so far it faithfully reappears each year.  The rusty old cylindrical wire cage was placed early since the deer love to eat this plant.  The plant is far too beautiful to risk losing so protection is a must.

The potatoes receive daily attention.  Two five gallon cans and both sprinkling cans are filled with water and trucked to the garden near the woods.  Hand weeding and hilling revealed dampness just under the surface of the soil.  This was a welcome sight as I was unsure that my meager efforts were supplying adequate moisture.  Yesterday I was working on hands and knees at the far end of these plants.  I looked up to see twin fawns standing just outside of the fenced area.  Their first reaction was to freeze motionless.  This gave me a good long look at them.  Then mother called her offspring and they bounded into the tall growth at wood's edge.  Despite the deer damage recently inflicted onto my plants, seeing two fawns up close was a real thrill.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Two Wild Flowers Named Carolina

In some manner there has to be a distinction made between pernicious weed and treasured native wild flower.  This Silene caroliniana has remained a common weed for as long as we have gardened here.  Its usual appearance is as a single stalk sporting few flowers.  For some unknown reason, this year a clump of stalks produced a group of flowers of sufficient size to capture the eye from across the garden.  We have known this plant as sticky catch fly, or more simply catch fly, for years.  That name is connected to the brown sticky bands that encircle the stem at separated intervals. Wild pink is another common name that seems better suited to a garden specimen.

This plant prefers dry rocky barren soil.  That is what naturally occurs here but we wildly amend with stone removal and compost additions.  The tiered bed under construction in the front of the house sounds like a perfect location for wild pinks.  Since the basal foliage looks tattered at blossom time, this one will be placed at the back of the bed.  This plant may have been overlooked for all of these years since it grows here unaided.  Those days are behind us now.  In addition to the bright purple color, a pleasant scent is released by these beautiful flowers.

Here is another weed plant that we found growing alongside of an old fence line.  As it turns out, this is the New York State flower.  Properly named Rosa carolina, one must wonder how it came to be our state flower.  One also might wonder how the name carolina came to be attached to so many native plants.

The simple elegance of this highly scented flower is somewhat hidden by this picture taken late in the day.  These flowers last for only a single day.  The pictured one is curling its petals in preparation for casting them off.  The ground beneath this plant is littered with intact pink petals already dried.

We are still looking for a suitable location for this plant.  Underground stolons send up new growth at some distance from the parent plant.  Our five foot wide beds do not provide the growing room that this plant deserves.  We must find a suitable location soon since the two new plants potted up this spring are showing buds now.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

New Growth And Seeds

These two arbutus plants have been moved twice.  Their first transplantation found them near our older plants.  They were small one year old plants then and we needed them close by where we could watch them.  Last year we felt that these two were ready to be set out on their own.  Placed in the deep rotting mass of decades of fallen white pine needles, these plants prospered.  The many stems sporting light green leaves are new growth that formed in just the last few weeks.  Darker leaves show the limits of the old growth that was present at the time of the second move.  I find both the size of the new growth and the speed with which it appeared to be impressive.

We knew that one of these plants was female and the other male.  Due to their relative youth, we were not expecting to find seed this year,  This young lady has two separate clusters of seed berries.  We visit here daily hoping to see the mature seeds exposed when the cover splits and is pulled back.  Chipmunks live close by in an old stone wall and we are aware that these seed berries could disappear at any moment.

The female plant is to the right in the first photo.  Sharp eyes might find this seed cluster located at the six o'clock position between the long new stem and the shorter one to its left.

Nearly all of the leaves present on the left most plant were blackened by winter's end.  We suspect sun scorch as the cause of the damage despite the shade cast by the huge white pine.  A slope in the ground places the two plants in different orientation to the winter sun despite their closeness.  This male plant carried on despite the leaf damage.  Pollen was produced to fertilize the female flowers.  Impressive new leaves were formed to carry on the functions of the plant.  In many ways arbutus reveals itself to be one rugged plant despite its reputation as impossible to move.

This photo also illustrates the the complexity of the stem structure.  The browned upper leaf and the dark green leaf beneath it are last year's growth.  The pointed structures between the two older leaves are the remains of the male flowers that produced the successful pollen.  The two light green hairy stems that originate between the two leaves and flower cluster are this year's new growth.  I am considering placing a heavy wire U just behind the old growth forcing the old stem into the ground.  The purpose of that would be to see if new root growth sufficient to sustain a separate plant would form.

Here is the current status of the first four arbutus plants that were transplanted here in 2011.  The light green leaves are all new growth formed in just the past few weeks.  Here and there the older dark green leaves can still be seen.  This much new growth was totally unexpected.

The events of last fall have impacted our recent conduct.  We were unable to carry water to our arbutus then as a result of personal injury.  Arbutus set their flower clusters in the fall and the severe drought limited the number of buds set.  As a result, flowers were rather scant this year.  Buds form on the new growth.  We could not have the present lack of rainfall limiting the amount of new growth.  All of our plants have received a sprinkling can or two of water nearly every day for the past several weeks.  The new growth cycle is nearing completion so we can rest easy for some time.  If the lack of rainfall continues, we will resume daily waterings  in about one month.  We really want an impressive set of blossoms next spring.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Potato Lessons Learned

Like many that garden, I am driven to plant early thinking that an early harvest will follow.  Twenty-two years ago when we first bought this land, I drove past an old farm on my way here.  This family still turned their cows out to pasture and still baled their hay in the shape of right rectangular solids.  This farmer also planted his potatoes well into June.  Slow to learn, I continued to rush the season.

These seed potatoes spent two weeks on raised plastic trays in our hallway.  Mail ordered from Colorado, they had no eye growth when they arrived.  The time in the warmth with subdued light encouraged the growth of short tight eyes.  Chitting is the name of this process and it is reported to get the plants growing quickly.  The four varieties shown are Red Gold, Canela, Colorado Rose and Austrian Crescent.  Purple Viking did not make the photo due to their huge size.  This photo was taken on May 28th our chosen planting day.

In all of the years that I have gardened, cut seed potatoes never grew.  Planted early in cold soil, the seed rotted.  This year the cut seed were allowed to skin over for about an hour before planted.  This photo was taken on June 6th nine days after planting.  The near six plants or slits in the ground are the Purple Vikings.  The two plants that are clearly up were planted whole.  The four spots of cracked ground are from cut seed that are growing.  This is a first for us and we are thrilled.

Ten days later five of the plants look great and the runt is still holding on.  The two planted whole have produced larger plants but the cut seed is closing the gap.  What is somewhat laughable is that it only took me 22 years to learn to wait for the soil to warm before planting potatoes.

The bed on the far side of the stone path illustrates the consequences of work left undone.  Weeding did not follow harvest and the weeds were allowed to go to seed.  When clearing this area recently, the surface of the ground was covered with weed seeds.  We hope that soil disturbance while hilling the potatoes will curb the weeds.  If that is ineffective, we will resort to hand removal.  These weeds must not be allowed to form seed again this year.

Last year's health crisis prevented me from digging my potatoes.  Friends and neighbors helped but they were not experienced potato diggers.  Several missed potatoes are growing just fine in the bed that I have yet to weed.  There are enough potatoes growing here that they will hold this bed.  Corn was scheduled to be planted but with our lack of rainfall it may be best to pass on the corn.

These plants began growing ahead of the potatoes that I planted.  The dumb spud knew better that I when it was time for them to grow.  This fall I intend to have a planting bed cleared and ready before the crop is harvested.  As the potatoes are dug, egg sized perfect seed will be placed back into the ground as soon as they are unearthed.  This seed will grow on its own schedule and give us a well timed harvest.  Since disease may be introduced by replanting my seed, only one generation will be grown this way.

The rampant weed growth on the far side of the fence illustrates my attempt to turn pasture into planting beds without the use of power tools.  Lawn trimmings have been spread here for several years in a row.  Quack grass growth has moved out of the soil and up into the rotting grass clippings.  There it is an easy task to remove both the plants and their extensive system of roots.  Pumpkins and squash are presently grown in this area.  We hope to tame this ground into more usable garden space.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Flowers After The Rain: Photos By Amy

After just one night's good rain, billows of white blossoms cover the blackberry canes along the lane.  Their sweet fragrance fills the air.  It seems to me that new leaves have a subtle fragrance too, but  today it's the flowers that grab your attention.

Each fragile white flower will form a blackberry.  Called an aggregate fruit, it is made up of a whole bunch of single fruits containing a seed.  Each is represented by one tiny filament with a black spot on the end.  It is a treat to take the time to notice this small white beauty!

Seldom does the reality of plants in the garden come up to the image that the gardener sees in their head when they plant them.  Amy's photo of Campanula portenschhlagiana shows exactly what we were hoping for with this plant.  Growing from a space between two wall stones, the mere survival of these plants so poorly located defies expectations.  This plant was pushed into the crevice long after the wall was built.  There is no hidden supply of soil to supply nutrients for growth or flower production.  Add to that our weeks without rain and these really seem to be miracle flowers.

I had a very hard time choosing this image of a bumblebee on chive blossoms. All of Amy's photos seemed wonderful.  You might think that chive blossoms smell like onion, but they don't.  They smell like purple or a little like grapes.  This year most of our pollinators are bumblebees.  Honey bees are seldom seen in our garden now.  It is comical to watch these huge bees land on dainty flowers.  When one alights on a pansy, the flower stem and bee are pushed to the ground.  Undeterred, the bee collects its meal and moves to the next flower where the same sequence of events unfolds.

It's hard for me to think of grass as having flowers.  This little butterfly has no such difficulty.  He will hang upside down to get nectar.  We leave the ground level close-ups of butterflies for Amy!  She can still do the job beautifully!

Ed's Butter and Sugar Siberian iris is just opening.  This variety is more dainty than others.  Short narrow leaves are no match for our weeds.  Some of these have been moved out of the display garden in an attempt to get rid of the weeds.  Quack grass rhizomes that penetrate the crown of the iris are particularly troublesome.  Any piece of weed left behind will grow again.

It is such a pleasure to give Amy the camera and walk with her around the garden.  Her steady hand and artists eye capture beautiful images of our plants.  We hope that she visits again when the lilies in the foreground are in flower.  

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Siberian Iris Bloom Order

Weather continues to raise havoc with both us and our plants.  The nearly complete lack of rain for May has hit the plants particularly hard.  I spend hours carrying water in sprinkling cans but only a few chosen plants receive this aid.  The onions, peas, lettuce and arbutus always receive some water.  The Siberian Iris have been left to survive without help.  These Shaker's Prayer not only are surviving but they were the first to flower here.

The complexity of the colors in these blossoms is awesome.  This one shows some smudging of the purple veins on the white background.  This may be a consequence of the dry ground since memory says that the color separation is usually complete.

Roaring Jelly is the first variety that we purchased.  Those tiny mail order plants are now huge.  Divisions produced enough new plants to provide us with several plantings of this variety.

Bright sunlight caused the camera to capture an image that distorts the actual color.  Perhaps we will try again under different light conditions.

If we try to complete the record of the order of bloom, the number of posts will be excessive.  We went more than a little nuts and ordered several different varieties for years.  Name tags are missing in some instances so we have to wait for flowers and try to identify named varieties. The flowers are all beautiful. A rose by any other name...