Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sisters Or Seed

Cardinal Flower has been a prime focus here recently.  How a native plant that is described as hardy to zone 3 can freeze out frequently here in what is now described as zone 5 is a frustrating puzzle.  Late winter hard freezes are the problem.

The first picture shows several sister plants growing around the base of a single stalk that flowered this year.  The single spent stalk marks this plant as a transplant that was set out in the spring.  If these young plants survive, each will send up its lone stalk that will produce flowers.  The resulting cluster of flowers will create an impressive display.  These plants are positioned so that a covering bucket can protect them from late frosts while doing no damage to adjacent plants.

This jumble contains perhaps seven stalks that flowered this season.  Since a single plant can result in six daughter plants, there may be as many as forty-two new plants growing here.  Overcrowding is the obvious result and if left alone next year's plants can not all survive here.  These plants will be transferred to pots just as soon as the soil is workable next spring.  Fall transplants always frost heave and die.  This cluster may well contain more plants than we usually pot up but we have big plans for next year.  It is our hope to find other gardeners who would like to  encourage cardinal flower to grow in it's natural environment.

Cardinal Flower also reproduces by seed.  Garden soil seldom contains enough moisture for successful germination but at time plants from seed are found.  Warm soil is another requirement for the seeds to sprout so plants from seed will not be found earlier than late May.  This plant was found and moved in August.  Notice how much larger it is than the pictured daughter plants.  These will require protection in place from the late frosts and they will surely get it.  Sumac berries are the source of the small red spheres.  Any that sprout will be weeded out.

This is one of three transplants set out at the base of the forest covered bedrock ridge last spring.  We are hopeful that the plants that follow these can survive on their own.  Since over-protection is in our makeup, one plant will likely get a bucket cover when frost threatens while the other two will be left on their own.  Since moisture leaks out from the base of the ridge, seeds dropped here this fall will likely sprout next summer.  Our hope is that a wild naturally perpetuating cluster of Cardinal Flower plants will establish themselves here.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Black Friday In The Garden, Photos by Amy

  After a busy day with terrific food and family time yesterday, I awoke very early this morning.  It was not to hop in the car to go shopping.  I don't do that on the day after Thanksgiving.  I was feeling dizzy and queasy and thought the day was going to be a disaster. Then while sitting in the kitchen eating breakfast, I noticed brilliant flashes of blue outside the kitchen window.  I immediately thought of bluebirds, but that seemed like wishful thinking.  A few minutes later a bird came back and sat on top of one of the bluebird houses.  Both Amy and Ed saw him.  The brilliant blue, reddish throat and white tummy made it definite.  Bluebirds on November 24 would have to go down as something special in any garden journal!  Just seeing them made me feel a little better.

 Bluebirds and beautiful blue skies called for a walk in the garden with the camera and Amy.  Actually she did most of the walking and I spent a lot of time sitting on the garden bench in the sunshine. Here we have  the backside of a sunflower.  What an interesting place to leave your sunflower seeds.

Howling winds have blown most milkweed seeds away,  but these two pods are still waiting for these seeds to have a chance to fly away on their silken fluff.

This milkweed seed is hung up in the top of a catnip plant.

Cold has turned the hens and chicks a lovely red.  The prickles on the end of each leaf are perfect for snagging milkweed fluff.  I don't see any seeds here. Perhaps they have been eaten or maybe I will be pulling tiny milkweed plants out of the hens and chicks in the spring.

This unknown Sedum was a stowaway in the pot of another purchased plant.  I planted it on top of Ed's curved wall.  It shows an interesting tangle of textures, shapes, color and light. 

Prickly and soft, red and white, light and shadow make this photo a favorite!

Moss and lichens adorn the top of this stone wall.  Hazelnut catkins add a little more interest! 

The side view of the same rock adds another dimension.  There are always interesting things to see in the garden. Walking there with someone special who notices is perfect!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Before The Shooting Starts

I never know exactly what I will see when I look out my living-room window.  Now that it is November, I very frequently  see a very young male deer with just four points.  Often his twin sister is around as well.  They sometimes sleep in the lawn area between the stone wall on the right and our house.  The gardener in me wants them to go away and stop eating my plants forever, but I have enjoyed watching these deer since they were tiny fawns.  Today I saw  the young male eating grass in the lawn close to the stone wall.  It seemed like he saw the eight point stag step out of the woods  just about the same time I did.  He quietly moved  to the opposite side of the wall from that big buck.  I got the binoculars to get a better look. Wow those big horns  horns looked sharp!  The young deer moved towards the safety of the house while the stag charged with amazing speed clearing the stone wall with ease in a single leap.  Unwilling to let nature take it course, I opened the window and shouted at them both.  The young male, knowing I am totally harmless, took the opportunity to take off to the east as fast as he could go.  The big buck unaccustomed to my bellowing retreated to the edge of the tree line.  He stood there looking majestic long enough for me to get the camera.  Ed got a chance to see him too.  It was not until I saw the picture that I noticed the young female standing motionless in the tall grass right between the two bluebird houses.

Since the young male was now gone, after a time he turned and walked away into the woods.  The young female remained where she was still motionless.  We thought the show was over and the tail of the big buck would be the last we saw of him.

It was then that the young female decided to move.  The buck stopped and turned his head in our direction once again.  There was time for one last picture,  then the female raced off to the east as fast as she could go.  The magnificent stag went after her.  We watched as he bounded across the lawn and then in the tall grass.  His leaps seemed effortless.  His feet barely seemed to touch the ground.  It was not unlike a well trained ballet dancer leaping across the stage. In a flash it was all over. All of the deer were gone!  For four more days that stag will be the force to be reckoned with around this neck of the woods.  However when the shooting starts his magnificent horns will not give him the advantage.  Before today we had heard about this eight point buck.  It was wonderful to see him but it's clear, when push comes to shove, it's the young deer that I have watched grow up here who have captured my heart!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

November Pines

 Some combination of favorable weather conditions resulted in a huge crop of pine cones on several different varieties of trees this year.  These Norway Spruce trees are still holding a heavy load of cones despite their fallen cones thickly covering the ground.  These trees regularly produce a crop of cones but their numbers are usually small.  This crop exceeds anything that we have seen in the past.

Norway Spruce cones remain tightly closed whether on the tree or on the ground.  Some resident rodent peels the cones to expose the seeds tucked close to the center shaft.  This bounty will likely help the squirrels and chipmunks survive the winter in great numbers.  The impact of great numbers of these creatures remains to be seen.  A recent bumper crop of acorns aided an increase in the number of mice which was a factor in a record number of ticks.

Not all trees with needles rather than leaves remain evergreen.  Larch trees needles change from green to a beautiful gold before falling to the ground.  New green needles will not be seen here until next spring.

They may be dropping their needles but they retain a tight hold on their cones.  A slight disturbance now will cause seeds to drop from the cones.  These trees were planted in some of the driest ground we have.  Perhaps this will be the year when some of these cones are scattered on ground that is frequently wet.  Larch trees prefer moist soil.

Our White Pines have matured and dropped their cones.  Hungry critters peel away the scales in search of seeds.  Scales and stripped cone centers litter the ground while the seeds are secreted away for winter food.

These cones have been gathered for two reasons.  Their open structure and white colored tips make attractive holiday displays.  They reportedly make excellent fire starters.  Once snow covers the ground, I plan to make small fires to clear away the nuisance shrubs unearthed earlier this year.  These White Pine cones may help start the fires.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Bloom While You Still Can!

 DST is official.  We set our clocks back.   Daylight hours will keep getting shorter until the Winter Solstice on December 21st.  Flowers in the garden are getting down to a precious few.  If you are a Gloriosa Daisy you have no time to bother with a nice long stem.  Right down next to the still somewhat warm soil is the way to go.  If a few more warm days happen and pollinators fly by, this flower is ready!

Growing out over a stone path works pretty well too.  This Gaillardia, Arizona Sun, flower is not a perfect specimen but it is November and getting very nippy here at night.  Bright red and yellow color is  a welcome sight.

I don't ever remember the Malva sylvestris lasting this long.  After a magnificent showing this summer, this plant is nearly done.  Some of its leaves have rust.  Many of its seeds have already been dropped.  Something is nibbling on its petals.  This last flower  is still beautiful for November!

I never get tired of thyme plants and stones.  This wild thyme  takes the cold in stride.  When the snow comes, and it will come, this plant will be just as happy and green as it is now, but  the flowers are best enjoyed now.  I noticed that a large flock of slate gray juncos is hanging out in the garden.  I don't need a crystal ball to predict that a change of seasons is in our very near future.