Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Latest Daylilies

Nanuq is with us because of our search for the perfect white daylily.  Its color is what we are looking for but both the flowers and the plant are comparatively small.  If we can just remember these details when we plant the display garden, this plant will be located front and center.

Jedi Free Spirit has been with flowers for some time but getting its picture has been a problem.  Nearly all of these plants grow behind protective wire fencing to deny our deer herd free access to tasty daylily buds.  That barrier also makes it difficult for us to get close to our plants.  The wire fence is removable but now with so many plants growing into the wire damage results if we try to get inside.

Swallow Tail Kite is our tallest daylily.  Its flowers and my nose are the same distance above ground.  We find the colors and their placement relative to each other appealing.

Princeton Silky is pure class.  The raised white ribs cleanly divide the peach colored areas.  This one was among our first purchases and we remain pleased to have it in our collection.  It is a rather late bloomer so it shines when most of the others are nearly finished.

Lime Frost is another example of our search for a pure white.  The ruffled edges always please here and the blossoms have substance.

This one has been in bloom for some time but we are unsure about its name.  Earlier in the day the pink center ribs are more brightly colored but this is the picture that we have.  Our list of purchased plants includes the names Fragrant Pastel Cheers and Spring Fling.  We believe that one of these names match this plant.

Now there are just two names of plants that we have purchased but we cannot find them.  Ruffled Parchment was among the most expensive plants ever purchased but the tiny pieces shipped barely stayed alive for its first two years here.  Now no trace of it can be found.

Wineberry Candy is simply missing in action.  When fall cleanup is underway we will keep our eyes looking for a stone bearing that name.  With these two missing plants all thirty-eight varieties have been accounted for.  A solemn vow has been taken that no additional plants will be purchased until all of those already here have been properly divided and generously spaced. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Excessive Beauty

Our history with Oriental lilies spans several years.  Catalog listings described these plants as hardy to zone 4.  That is the number assigned to our location so we bought and planted bulbs.  Soon after new growth appeared a late frost turned it to sad mush.  We tried again with the same lack of success.  Finally we stumbled onto the need to provide these plants with covers when frost was likely.   Covering newly emerged plants was easy but when the lily was taller than a huge garbage can we were in trouble.  Any part of the plant that touched an edge of the plastic cans was frost burned.

Not known to give up easily, we searched for a new method.  Blocks of sod were cut and piled in the shape of a wide U.  Plastic pipes were driven into the ground and a single tarp covered everything under it.  Placing three dozen plants under cover meant that they had to be pulled from the ground and placed in three gallon pots at the end of their growing season.  That system worked well until the time came to plant them out.  By June  many exceeded three feet in height.  Imagine removing an inverted plant from its pot without damaging the flower buds then righting it and placing it in a hole.  Three gallons of soil is heavy and the move from standing to kneeling next to the planting hole became impossible.  Looking back, I guess we should have left the plants in their pots.

We have flowers this year because no frost found us after the lilies began their above ground growth.  Much of April and all of May were frost free.  We cannot remember a past year like that and will likely never see it again.  So for what may be the last time, we are surrounded by incredible beautiful flowers and wrapped in their unbelievable fragrance.

The first picture shows the single remaining Golden Stargazer.  It is just over six feet in height and the flower count is large.  Our 36 gallon garbage cans could not cover all three of the plants and space did not allow more than one can.  Slow to learn, I plan to buy three new bulbs and plant them closer together so that one can will protect them.  Their height is a problem since six foot tall garbage cans do not exist.

Table Dancer checks in at less than four feet tall.  Adjacent plants make placing covering cans difficult so the obvious solution is to enjoy the display while it is here and miss it greatly when it is gone.                         

Late Morning bulbs are placed on either side of Table Dancer.  This combination of colors is hard to find in plants that have even a slight chance of surviving here.  So we live in the moment and frequently walk away with pollen stuck to our noses.  Their scent simply must be deeply inhaled.  

The more than two inches of rain that fell on the day following the rest of this post prompting Muscadet to finally open its flowers.  They are more than worth the wait.  Typical of Oriental Lilies these blossoms are huge, brilliantly colored and carry a heavenly scent.  They combine a late appearance with a rather short stature so it would be possible to cover them with a huge plastic trash can if frost threatened.  All that needs to be done is to separate them from their neighbors so that the covering can does not flatten them.

Here are the last three lilies to open for us.  Casa Blanca has huge pure white blossoms that are loaded with a sweet scent.  Each year the stems are taller than they were the year before.  When these bulbs were planted a circle was carefully marked on the soil intending to guide planting so that one plastic can could cover the lot.  One bulb sent its initial growth sideways foiling that plan.  This year no protection was needed since late frost stayed away.

Scheherazade is a little flamboyant for our tastes.  Planted close to the house, it has not needed that much help to survive.  Its height exceeds that of the garbage cans used to provide protection from late frosts but one plant lives on in the garden.

Salmon Star has been a favorite here for many years.  Its short stature combined with a late appearance makes it easy to protect,  Its scent is delightful and the colors are rather subdued so it will likely be among the last to continue to grow here.

There is one final note.  We have experienced at least one deer that has developed a taste for lily buds.  We lost entire varieties just as the buds were set to open.  The number and height of protective wire cages made that route seem unpleasant.  Once before fresh urine was used to establish a line that the deer seemed reluctant to cross.  Now the garden is much larger so defensive applications were limited to the areas around the lilies.  We have to date lost no lilies to the deer.  Their hoof prints were close to the Golden Stargazer but no buds were eaten.  They did excessively trim a Rudbeckia triloba that was outside of the protective line.  It is amazing the actions that some will take to protect their treasured flowers.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Even More Daylilies

Amish Quilt Patch is colored much differently than most Daylilies.  Its colors are soft and subdued while its scent is most pleasant.

Flash Fire is a bright clear red.  The white center ribs and scalloped edges make a sharp contrast.

Catherine Woodbury is even more delicately colored.  It is among the varieties that have been here for a very long time.

This robust beauty was included in a mail order as a free gift.  This variety is among the most robust growing both tall and wide.  The flower count is astronomical.  The scent is beyond pleasant.  The only explanation that I can find for this wonders relegation to the free gift category is that the society than grants names to new varieties found this one too similar to already named varieties.  The breeder's loss is my gain since I find this white flower highly desirable.

Doc Reaver has huge flowers.  Its scent is pleasant while the clear yellow color is somewhat understated.  Brighter yellows are in my collection but this one truly stands out.

To date 30 different Daylilies have been listed here.  It is likely that less than 10 remain to be displayed.  We hit a snag today when we found a marker stone that was clearly misplaced.  When more plants open their flowers perhaps we can clean up the mess.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Finally A Little Rain

Jewelweed holds a great deal of ground here.  Two factors explain why we allow this weed to grow here almost unchallenged.  First, the sap of this plant is well known to help with exposure to poison ivy.  None grows here but we do have an abundance of stinging nettles.  Contact with this plant makes skin feel like it is on fire.  Both plants grow here side by side as that is how they planted themselves.  Accidental contact with the nettles is quickly followed by crushing the juice filled stem of the jewel weed and rubbing the soothing liquid on the burning skin.

A friend of Becky's cans jewel weed stems for use in the winter.  Contact with poison ivy stems in the winter can raise serious welts.  Only canned jewelweed is available for off season use.

Touch-me-not is a popular name for this plant.  As its seeds mature a coiled spring prepares itself to shoot ripe seeds into the air with considerable force.  Both Becky and Amy take great delight in helping this plant spread its seed.

On the day before the rain fell, all of our plants looked like the dead one in the picture.  Rain rescued the others but this one is gone.  These stems are heavily filled with moisture.  When all of the other plant leaves were dust dry, our deer fed heavily on jewel weed.  Usually the deer simply pass this plant by leaving it undamaged.

Amish Quilt Patch opened its first flower in the early morning rain.  We expect to see more typically formed flowers now that some moisture is in the ground.

Aurora Raspberry was recently reported missing.  Clearly it is still with us.  I wonder if there is an explanation for why one flower has a single petal pointing upwards while the other has its single petal pointing downward?

Monday, July 16, 2018

Still More Daylilies

This photo of Aurora Raspberry was taken last year.  A very complex combination of colors and textures has kept this plant rather small.  Only two flowers opened this year and both were too small and incompletely formed for a current picture.

Ivory Edges displays the ruffled edges that I find compelling.  A scent is also likely but since this flower is behind a wire cage to keep the deer away, I was also kept away.

Gentle Ed was purchased one year after Ivory Edges.  The flowers are quite similar but how could I possibly resist a plant that carries both my name and a personality characteristic.  If  Modest were its middle name that match would approach perfection.

Big Bird is a huge vigorous variety that we have planted in two different locations.  Those growing in the deep gravel soil near the house are having difficulty opening complete flowers.  The deep river bottom land down near the road holds more moisture resulting in a typical perfect flower.

The combination of yellow and maroon makes Huckleberry Candy a stunning variety.

Frosted Vintage Ruffles has been with us for a very long time.  Like all of our plants, this one needs to be divided and given more space since its flowers are rather small this year.

Blueberry Candy has the wide fat petals more commonly seen on recently developed varieties.  The separation of the white and purple colors is strikingly beautiful.

Sunday Gloves is another one that is struggling with the lack of rainfall and overcrowding.  Pure white is a difficult color to breed into daylilies but this one is very nearly perfect.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Glorious Composite Flowers And Pollination

You just can't beat composite flowers for color and long lasting flowers in the garden.  These flowers are composed of ray flowers, the large red and yellow petals seen here, and disk flowers which we will examine more closely.  The Monarch Butterfly has become a  famous poster child for the pollination movement and no wonder just look at it!  Even the Postal Service agrees. The Monarch beat out the bee 12 to 8. Their Protect pollinator stamps came out on August 1, 2017 and are now sold out.  You can still see them online.

But there are many more pollinators than Monarch Butterflies and Honeybees.   Here a bee or a fly of a different sort is visiting the ring of tiny yellow flowers.

Early in the morning when fog fills the air and dew glistens on a Gloriosa Daisy, today's ring of disk flowers can be seen as buds.  The flowers will open later when the sun dries the dew and it is time  for the pollinators to begin their search for nectar and pollen.

This solid color flower has a ring of tiny flowers with nice yellow pollen.  Before long the pollen will be collected by this pollinator and perhaps others.  Tomorrow the process will be repeated.  This continues until the entire disk has its turn to bloom.

Last weekend I cut some Gloriosa Daisies to bring a little of their cheery color indoors.  In my kitchen where there are no pollinators and there is no rain to wash the pollen away, the rings of flowers with pollen last for several days.  The ring of buds for tomorrow can be easily seen in this picture.

Pollinating a flower isn't always easy.  Sometime a Flower spider is waiting there to eat you!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

All In

Growing garlic has been an obsession here for more than two decades.  In our younger days we were able to eat garlic in quantity.  Freshly minced cloves lightly sauteed in olive oil then spread on French Peasant Bread under a generous coating of Parmesan cheese was a favorite way to eat our garlic.  Now that is only a pleasant memory.  There is no rational explanation for why we continue to plant 720 cloves each fall.

A recently departed friend gave us a few of cloves from her garden for this garlic.  We named it Helen's and will always have it growing here.  This year we planted fifty cloves but harvested only forty-one.  Recalling that late winter was bitter here, we were pleased that any of these plants grew following their hard freeze after several warm March days.

When to harvest has always been a troublesome question.  In the book Growing Great Garlic, Ron Engleman advocates harvest when only two or three leaves are still green.  His experience with garlic is limited to the West Coast.  When I followed his advise my garlic cloves were filled with mold.  He also stated that it was impossible to grow garlic in New York State because of our summer weather patterns.  Alabama boomers are common here in July when hot humid days frequently feature severe thunderstorms.  That excessive moisture falling on plants with mostly dead leaves is a guaranteed problem.  Most of my plants still carry many green leaves at harvest.  These green leaves maintain a water tight seal at ground level avoiding the growth of mold.  My bulbs are somewhat smaller but they remain free of disease.

Helen's garlic was the first harvested and has undergone two steps toward cured bulbs.  Elevated on a wire garden cage, the root mass was cut off the day after harvest.  The next day, the lowest solid green leaf is pulled clear removing all traces of garden soil.  Next the stems will be shortened so that the bulbs can hang downward instead of lying on top of the cage.  With that change in orientation much more garlic can cure on this cage.  As the cure nears completion several purple stripes will appear on the outer wrappers growing in the same line as the stalks.

Monday, July 9, 2018

More Daylilies

This is the third variety in the gift from Susan.  This is likely an older cross and its name remains unknown to us.

Becky Lynne is the name given to this one.  This flower appears a bit delicate.

Molakai is a clear winner.  Its flowers begin to open in the evening so they are fully open by sunrise.  That explains the water drops evident on each petal's edge as the last of the night fog is about to disappear.

Spiritual Corridor is the second variety that we purchased.  Ruffled edges carrying the color of the center sets this one apart from the rest.

Strawberry Fields Forever displays one of the problems faced by breeders today.  With literately hundreds of named varieties registered how does one find a new name for the new one under consideration?

Wild Mustang is a flower with broad petals.

Prairie Blue Eyes is the tallest lily in our collection.

Indian Giver is a horrible name assigned to a most beautiful flower.  This one is definitely on the list to divide so that we have a generous supply of flowers worthy of a spot in our planned display garden.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Mating Monarchs

This is not a photograph you see everyday.  In fact it's amazing that I got this picture at all.  Ed was mowing the area  by the bluebird houses that I can see from my kitchen window.  He noticed a pair of mating Monarch butterflies on a milkweed plant.  He stopped mowing and  called me so I could see the coupled pair.  Over the years he has seen this many times back where we have acres of milkweed growing, but this was my first time!  I thought it might be rude and insensitive to get the camera to record this event, but I went back in the house to get the camera deciding if they were still there I would give it a shot.  I slowly approached being respectful and quiet but when I got almost close enough, they flew away.  I snapped a picture anyway pointing the camera in their general direction.  Ed had been watching me and was positive that I got a blurry picture of nothing. I  can't believe my luck!  This is not part of a video!  It has not been enhanced, cropped, centered or in any way altered.

Wildlife centered gardening can be a bit tricky.  We leave the milkweed so that the mating butterflies have plenty of leaves on which to lay their eggs.  However Bluebirds and Tree Swallows like to be next to an area of short vegetation so they can fly directly into their nest.  One box that can't be seen in this picture is currently empty.  Nearly grown  Tree Swallow babies  are in the box you can see.  Frequent  feeding trips need to be made by the adults.  I watched and they swoop around the milkweed plants and into the hole in the nest box with ease.

Milkweed flowers are buzzing with  bees.  The scent of the plants is intoxicating!  I guess for the Monarchs it all comes together to put them "In The Mood"!