Sunday, June 30, 2019

Purple Flowering Raspberry

Behold my purple flowering raspberry!  Just in this one photo we have new buds, a soon to open bud, a breathtakingly gorgeous flower and a berry-in-waiting.  Actually I'm the one who is waiting.

Let's take a really close look at that berry.  The male parts  form a light brown circle and sort of look like pieces of barley on little stems.  The female part, the berry, is light green.  Clearly pollination has taken place.  Now I wait for the berry to ripen.  I am expecting all of that brown stuff to fall off. Compare this to the center of the beautiful purple flower and you can see progress is being made!

Here is an average sized leaf on my Rubus odoratus.  It is big enough to substitute for a fig leaf if you know what I mean.  I know it looks a little like a maple leaf, but it is not.  

It was Mother's Day 2017 when I was plant shopping with Amy  at the Catskill Native Nursery.  I was totally drawn to a single purple flowering raspberry in a  large pot.  It was just slightly shorter than me.  I put in on our wagon of plants to purchase.   I finally realized that there was no way I could fit the plant into Amy's car.  There was a tear in my eye when I told them that the plant would have to stay.  It made me so happy when the man said "Oh, I have smaller  purple flowering raspberry plants would you like one of those?"  Obviously my answer was "Yes".  Before he could put the plant back in stock he and the next woman in line were having exactly the same conversation.  They say you can't buy happiness, but that day I did.

That summer the plant did well. but we soon learned that if we were to ever see flowers on the plant it would have to live in a cage.  Like me, the deer found this plant irresistible.  Ed made a nice tall  cage and last summer the plant made a fabulous comeback.  It was as tall as me and even wider! However it did not flower.  Again I had to wait.  This spring a new larger, taller cage was required.  It worked great and after just a little over two years you can see the results.  They say these berries are dry but that's fine.  My mouth is watering already!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Something New

Cardinal Flower has been with us for many years.  As a native plant that grows abundantly both to our north and south, why it is rarely seen in the Catskills remains a puzzle.  Perhaps the early spring weather here that features Alabama hot days followed by Arctic bitter freezes is what kills this plant.  Each year we pot up evergreen plants that look great when the snow first melts.  These plants are carried into the basement when a hard freeze is forecast.  72 plants made those in and out trips this year.  They are individual plants that will produce but a single flowering stalk this summer.  We always recommend that at least three plants be set out fairly close together to improve the presentation that these plants will make but their natural growth habit does far better than that.

Having more potted plants than are needed has never been a problem before but now we have several still waiting to be set out.  We decided to place one plant in each gallon pot.  They will be left in the ground to see how well they grow.  If they grow and flower normally, we will be able to lift the pots and carry them inside next spring.  By then each single stem will have produced up to six daughter plants that will grow out next summer.  Six flowering stems growing close to each other is the natural habit of this plant and they will look tremendous.  The cluster in the upper left corner of the photo has held that spot for several years.  More than one dozen flowering stalks will appear there this year.  If this method of potting up Cardinal Flower is successful, we will discontinue late winter potting up.  What will we do with all of that extra free time?

Each year we buy a ten cubic yard truckload of reground hardwood bark mulch.  Today saw these tiny orange mushrooms beginning to grow in the mulch pile.  Their growth should be rapid so we will have a chance to both watch and record just what grows here.  Kidney damage is a frequently listed risk for eating mushrooms taken from the wilds so we simply steer clear.  We will watch them grow and take their pictures but will not eat, smoke or otherwise ingest any of them,

Old age has taken from us our ability to work outside on hot clear days.  We started work in the garden early today but rather soon felt the need to get out of the sun.  Our retreat to the developing shade garden allowed us to work outside until nearly noon.  The white field in the background is how our camera records grass in full sunlight.  Actually the bright green grass just beyond the stone lined path continues to the tree line.  Our primary task here at this time of year is to remove grass and weeds from soil that will soon grow mostly native shade loving plants.  Today stones were set to define the paths that will make walking among the plants without stepping on them possible.  More stones are needed here but they will be collected only during the cool of the day.  This will likely be our last new garden so there is a strong desire to create a special place here.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Natural Cycles

Trailing Arbutus has captured and held our attention for the past several years.  Most articles written describe transplanting this plant as impossible.  Patient observations spanning years resulted in the 2011 move of the six plants pictured here.  We are still learning their life cycle by watching and trying to understand what we see.  Arbutus is an evergreen plant but we seldom see an old dead leaf.  Nearby oak trees spread their large dead leaves some of which cover Arbutus leaves.  Fearful that oak covers will kill desired leaves, many late fall days are spent hand picking oak leaves.  That activity may not be necessary.

This year's new leaves are a bright light green while old Arbutus leaves are dark.  New growth stretches upward covering nearly all of the old leaves.  Heavy snow cover presses exposed leaves close to the ground.  The same fate will soon enough present itself to these tall new leaves.  For now one must search to see a nearly completely hidden dark leaf.  A question concerning the need to remove fallen oak leaves remains unanswered.  It may be that the cycle of lush new Arbutus growth will also forever hide the older leaves.

This second attempt to transplant Arbutus was made in 2014.  Three male plants and three female plants were moved here.  New growth has yet to completely overwhelm older growth so patches of old dark leaves are easily spotted.  We expect that in the not too distant future new growth will completely cover this ground hiding the older leaves.

These plants have reliably produced seed for a number of years but very few seed clusters can be found now.  Our early spring weather was unusually mild and these plants opened their flowers slowly over a long period of time.  Usually all of the blossoms open at the same time allowing successful fertilization to happen.  Perhaps next year will see seed here again.  Despite several years of mature seed, we have yet to see a new plant growing from seed.  Any new plants would be nearly impossible to find under the tangled mat of old stems and leaves.  We keep searching the surrounding area for new plants from seed but have to date failed to find them.  It may be that several years on the ground are needed before germination occurs.  A knowledgeable visitor suggested five as the number of years needed.

Only two plants make up our 2016 move to transplant.  Each gender is present and these smaller plants once again are maturing seed.  At the same time lush new growth is expanding the range of each plant. We find it amazing that the female plant grows both seed clusters as well as new stems and leaves at the same time.  Now it is impossible to tell where one plant ends and the other begins.

Twenty-five years ago this wild arbutus planting was found by the new land owners.  Some years we would enjoy sweet blossoms while no trace of the plant could be found most other years.  A disappearing snow cover held evidence that a rabbit was feeding on the newly exposed evergreen Arbutus leaves. It turns out that the problem may not with transplanting Arbutus but with starved animals feeding on the newly placed evergreen leaves.  Wire cages placed just inside low stone walls protect these plants.  Just how an Arbutus plant can recover from having all of its above ground growth eaten remains a mystery.  This cycle of disappearing then staging a come back must be natural for this plant.  When compared with the size of our transplants, this natural occurrence of much older plants is tiny.

Our time on this land is coming to an end.  We intend to leave these Arbutus plantings protected with wire cages.  As new growth extends past the safe area, we will work to keep the new growth moving outward under the cage bottoms.  That way we will still be able to remove the cage for house cleaning.  We will not be surprised to see these unprotected plant parts eaten by woodchucks, rabbits or deer.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Deer Daycare Closed For Renovations

 I suppose  it would be  better  if I had taken a before photo.  Ed and I were way too busy trying to convince those two  twin fawns that in spite of the fact that Mom left them in my shade garden they were not welcome there.  At first I felt bad about it.  Fawns are so darned cute!  As time went by I got over that.  The last time I saw them there I stomped directly towards them.  I actually got  nearly close enough to touch them.  I yelled and waved my arms like a woman gone wild.  One left almost right away.  Finally the other one  got up and ran.  They both flashed their white tails and were gone.  I did some work on the shade garden that very day.

Yesterday was a beautiful day to be outside in the garden. The sun was shining and the sky was blue.  I took one look at the shade garden and I knew it was my mission for the day.  The entire shade garden was a sea of bare stems like the coral bells pictured above.  Apparently violet leaves are the perfect food for weaning fawns.  The allium that I love to use as a cut flower on the 4th of July was left uneaten, but bent and broken.  Let's just say there were fireworks a little early here this year!

 I spent the entire morning up in the shade garden with my garden cart and my Cobrahead removing violets and other unwanted plants while searching for what was left of my favorite wildflowers and other shade plants.

More than once while I worked I heard snorting from the tree line.  The doe with the two fawns was not happy with me and that suited me just fine!   Ed carried away my trugs full of violets and weeds. He helped me replant the Squirrel corn and the Dutchman's breeches.

He brought me cages to help protect my favorite plants  I thought this unique cage altered to protect my  Campanula portenschlagiana was  a real inspiration!  Now the Bambi Buffet will have to move to another location.

I am almost done with the renovations on the shade garden.  When I am finished this Deer Day Care Center will be CLOSED FOR GOOD!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Deer Day Care

We are located near the edge of several square miles of relative wilderness.  A seasonal road crosses this forest but it is basically wild here.  Why then did mom drop off her twins here to explore and feed in our garden directly in front of our home?

Clove Currant leaves were a choice for casual grazing and now Blue Eyed Grass is disappearing.  Both plants are native but the currant's natural range is far west of here.  These wild animals are very near our house.  This does not seem right.

Both fawns still can be seen just past the right end of the bench.  Click on the picture and enlarge it to get a better look.  Mom must have been nearby as the twins were suddenly  gone.  These animals are simply too comfortable here despite my frequent loud shouts.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Longest Name Here

Campanula portenschlagiana is the name of this particular plant.  Dalmation bellflower is its more commonly used name.  This plant is native to the Dalmation Mountains in Croatia.  We first purchased it because the catalog photo showed it growing from the vertical face of a stone wall.  We really did not expect that this plant would actually survive in such a location.  A small scrap of a plant was part of a mail order.  We pushed some garden soil into a joint in the wall and stuck the plant in this unlikely location.  How to water it was a concern but as you can see this plant grew just fine in its new location.  Spreading to the horizontal top of the wall was the plants idea and required no help from us.  Additional new growth anchored itself in nearby joints in the dry stone wall.  A chemical reaction between stone and vegetation produces nutrients for additional plant growth.

Purple flowers are favored here and additional plants would make a beautiful addition to the wall down by the road.  Winter hungry deer have eaten the exposed growth back to the wall.  This plant did regrow but several year's of new growth were needed to create this bold presentation.  Since the first attack, we have placed a wire cage over the plant.  An unattractive cage in place for several months is not an option by the road since our wall was placed on the property line.  For now this impressively attractive plant will remain only in our garden near the house.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

No, Not A Petting Zoo

When I returned home from the dentist, Becky was in the shade garden obviously upset about something.  She led me into the garden to show me the damage that had been done to many of our treasured plants.  While we were observing the destruction this yearling walked among the plants feeding on them as he walked.  Angry shouts from us had absolutely no effect on this young buck.  My close approaches while speaking loudly and firmly only moved him slightly.  In this photo his front feet are perilously close to a Giant White Trillium.

Finally the deer moved away from the planted area and exited at the chopped leaf holding area.  Encouragement for him to leave the area continued.  He moved away but returned several times.  He seemed to want Becky to reach out and scratch his head.  This is his first year with horns and the forces of manhood can be both confusing and overwhelming.  Eventually Bucky moved slowly into the nearby corn field.

This young Purple Flowering Raspberry plant has only been partially eaten.  The first picture shows a huge wire cage just behind the deer.  It was placed in response to a previous attack by an unknown deer.  Beautiful buds are just days away from opening but a wire cage in what is supposed to be a wildflower garden is a contradiction to the look we are trying to create.

This is all that remains of our impressive Bloodroot transplants.  Developing seed pods have captured our attention for weeks.  We were expecting to see ants disperse these seeds while eating the coating covering each seed.  With the leaves gone it is questionable if these seeds will reach maturity.  More importantly, we do not know if the rootstock received enough nutrition to fuel next year's reappearance of these plants.  A wire cage can be fashioned to cover these much desired plants but that would be like locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen.

We will wait for months to see the total impact of both this deer's sharp hooves and appetite for green plant leaves.  Our hopes were sky high for the return of our carefully placed native plants.  One small piece of good news is the small protective cage fashioned to protect our Fringed Polygalas after Becky read the extensive list of critters that feed on its evergreen leaves.

Monday, June 10, 2019

News Flash From The Stone Wall Garden

When Ed and I walked down to the mailbox, I snapped this picture of my Purple Flowering Raspberry, Rubus odoratus.  It looks like after several years this native plant is going to live up to its name.  That is exciting news!   When we stopped to sit on the bench in the shade before heading back up the hill, we saw a big black squirrel.  He was very fast and chasing the gray squirrels.  I have seen black squirrels before farther north in the state, but seeing the first one here is big news.  

I found the very first Monarch caterpillar of the year while I was weeding the onion bed.  The picture is larger than life.  This little guy was about half an inch long.  The first piece of Monarch frass of the year is on the leaf to the left.  I love butterflies so this is great news for me.  It might not be great news for the onions since the milkweed growing as a weed is shading them.

Also while weeding the onions for the first time I found the body of a snake  without a head.  It was medium sized  garter snake.  It is now resting in peace in the compost.  No picture is shown here because I consider that kind of gross news  is not fit to print.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Elle's Rose

It is amazing what proper care can do for a plant.  Cutting away healthy parts is something that we usually avoid.  As a result our roses have not produced much in the way of flowers.  My primary care physician advised pruning roses when the Forsythia is in bloom.  We  followed his advise this year with impressive results.  Elle's rose is in front of Blue Flag.  When Amy and I encountered this native plant in the wild, one or two flowering stalks per plant is what we usually saw.  Under cultivation it has created an impressively sized display.  Field grasses crowded the flag in the wild while here we at least keep the weeds cleared.  When the ground is ready in the new garden, this clump will provide us with several new plants and probably benefit from the thinning.

Elle is one of the women of years that encouraged our early attempts at gardening with both gifts of plants and sage advice.  She is no longer physically with us but her flowering gifts to us bring back pleasant memories of time spent together.  As a gardener, she was a ruthless pruner and her techniques still work wonders.  Our slowness to learn from her was likely a factor in the loss of the double red Rugosa  Rose that she also gave to us.  We have considered buying such a rose but that never seems right.

Eighteen years ago we spent Mother's Day with Amy at Wild Flower Island.  She took the subway from Brooklyn to Grand Central Station station for a commuter train.  From there a ride to Croton placed her near our goal.  We drove to the Croton station then spent the day together.  Purple is a favorite color of mine and we purchased a Meadow Sage plant at the gift shop.  This plant has seeded freely and now grows in several places in or near our paths.

We soon discovered an extremely disagreeable trait of this plant.  Any contact with the leaves releases a stench that reeks of human body odor.  Only in the locker room during a sophomore gym class have I ever encountered a smell as foul as what is released by this plant.  Today I raised the question about the nature of the scent released by these beautiful hooded purple flowers.  It reeks as strongly as the leaves.  There are several reasons why this plant is still with us.  It reminds us of a very special day spent with our firstborn.  This plant sends down a stout tap root so removing it requires considerable time and effort while surrounded  by foulness.  We simply let if grow freely unless we really have plans for the ground it holds.  In this instance beauty comes with a cost.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Frost In June, Seriously?

I am not thrilled to see the frost in the garden this morning.  It's June for Pete's sake!  It is a very lucky thing that I didn't get around to planting my tomatoes and basil yet.

Some spots have frost, others do not.  Clouds of vapor hang in the air in spots.  This one over the grass is filmy, but wherever water is, the river, ponds, puddles vapor rises like steam from a hot cup of coffee.

Some places the grass is white with frost.. Other places close by look to be frost free.

It must have been colder earlier because the frost on top of the car is frozen, but on the windshield ice is starting to melt and run down the glass.  There is nothing for it but to find the ice scraper and dig out my fuzzy purple hat.  This is a YMCA day.  I hope by the time Ed and I get back home all of this will be like a dream and June weather will have returned.  Maybe the basil and tomatoes will get planted tomorrow!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Still Sifting At 75

Twenty-five years ago we purchased thirty-six acres of land that could not support modern farming.  Without any consideration about the reality of the land, action was undertaken that would someday place a house on a somewhat level field.  Roaring in with wheelbarrows and hand tools, we discovered that a four tined spade could not be inserted into the ground.  Glacier broken stones were more prevalent in our dirt than topsoil.  The solution was to start screening out the stones where a planting bed was planned.

This picture illustrates my approach to everything.  Any job is never finished because I am always drawn to the next project.  This unfinished stone path stopped short of the crest of the slope.  Sizable weed growth shows just how long this site has been waiting for some attention.  This day's work began with me  taking time to smell the first rose.

Sifting dirt is a simple if uncommon process.  Once the plant growth is removed, patient use of the tools frees dirt so that it can be lifted onto the screen.  Stones are dropped where the path will go while the soil is used to fill a nearby depression that was previously left unfinished.

This may not look like much of a morning's work but wisdom defines limits that will make possible different work this afternoon.  This type of easy manual labor is credited with helping me reach seventy-five years of age.  A careful approach and a little wisdom has kept me injury free.  The remainder of this path will wait for another day.  As has been my habit, the next job calls.

This is not the first iris to open here but it is certainly the grandest.  Shaker's Prayer is its name and the past few years following a move have been difficult.  It appears to have finally recovered so that we can enjoy its brightly detailed markings.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

A More Natural Setting

Cardinal Flower is a native plant that does not grow freely in our area.  North or south of  the Southern Tier of New York, this plant flourishes but here it is rarely seen in the wild.  Despite the low chances of success, we continue to search for a wild location that will meet the needs of this treasure.  The time between initial snow melt and somewhat stable temperatures is when this plant dies out.  A naturally protected location is what we are searching for.

Here at the base of a north facing slope, snow melt comes later than nearby places.  Additionally, water drains down the hill and is trapped by the nearby road to our gravel bank.  Cardinal Flower needs generous amounts of moisture in addition to protection from early hard frosts.  Last year ten of our potted plants were set out in this wild ground.  A generous mulch of fallen tree leaves was placed to try to limit the growth of undesirable weeds.  All ten plants survived.

What actually survived was the new growth that appears in the fall as the flowering stem dies.  Under the best conditions, six new daughter plants will appear long before snow season.  These evergreen young plants will flower the following summer if all goes well.

This photo taken in August shows the beauty of Cardinal Flower.  A single blossom consists of three downward pointing petals with two additional ones spread upward looking like wings.  A white beard tops a tubular structure that leads to the ovary where seeds may form.  Hummingbirds find these flowers irresistible and visit them often even while we are working close by.  It is not uncommon for a hummingbird to momentarily hover close to Becky's face as if thanking her for providing these flowers.

Seeds formed and dropped last year will not germinate on this moist ground until the soil has warmed.  It may be as late as July before the from seed basal rosettes are seen.  They look much like the new growth seen in the first picture.  That is the form that they will take into winter.  If this year's new growth is killed by frost, there is still the possibility that from seed new plants will survive next winter.  Even with two different methods of providing for the next generation, this plant remains uncommon here.

These blades of green new growth may belong to another native treasure Blue Flag.  If that is the case these two plants will look good together.  It is possible that what is actually here may prove to be Yellow Flag.  If that is the case our removal efforts will focus on both the Yellow Flag and the Garlic Mustard.  Neither of these highly invasive aliens will be allowed to grow freely here.  In the long run both will likely survive but it will not be because we did not try to end them.