Sunday, July 28, 2019

Native Reds

Sumac trees get worse press coverage than our current President.  They are messy, short -lived and spread invasively.  We had three growing on the property line but a strong wind toppled all of them.  New trees quickly growing from seed is how this cluster came to be.  Their shade allows us to grow native woodland flowers.  This may be the only occurrence of plants like trillium and hepatica growing under sumac.  We do import hardwood leaves in an attempt to establish a more natural woodland soil and so far that is working.  The Audubon Society identifies sumac as the only native tree or shrub that grows in all 48 contiguous states.  Perhaps that fact will influence an improvement in how this tree is viewed.

Cardinal Flower is highly prized here because of the pure brightness of its red blossoms.  As a native plant that flourishes both to our north and south, it presents a huge problem here just keeping it alive.  Two rather mild late winters is the reason this cluster looks so impressive.  Anyone living near the Grasse River would see this group as pathetically small since these plants grow in abundance there.

Bee balm is our native red that spreads each year forming huge clumps.  It is deserving of a better reputation.  Perhaps if was more difficult to grow it would be seen as a treasure.

This is the first Royal Catchfly flower ever seen here.  Our past attempts to simply have this plant survive all failed.  Perhaps the river bottom soil under this specimen retains more moisture that the stony soil up the hill.  Whatever the reason we hope that this red flower will be seen here next season.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Procreation In The Morning

Taking action to give promise to the existence of the next generation is the primary goal of every living organism.  Beautiful flowers sometimes exist to draw in pollinators and their scent adds to the effect.  This reality sometimes results in confusion.  These pictures allowed us to really see for the first time just how Cardinal Flower produces its seed.

Today holds the first appearance this year of these unbelievably bright red flowers in our gardens.  This fresh display will continue for many days as new flowers continue to open higher on the stem.  Their color absolutely catches the eye making looking for detail a difficult task.  The reality that the first task of a freshly opened flower is to complete its fertilization ritual was never noticed until today.

Despite the early hour of my trip down to the mailbox, most of this flower's business has already been completed.  The packed tube rising above the five petals was initially capped with a white collection of white filaments that resemble a neatly trimmed human beard.  Yellow pollen grains quickly appear there.  The stigma pushed outward collecting pollen in the process.  Some white pieces of filament and yellow pollen grains fell on the petals during this process.

That pink swollen mass shows the state of the stigma after she gathered a full load of pollen.  It will soon go limp as the pollen grains are moved to the base of the flower.  There many seeds will grow to maturity. 

We have seen these events unfold countless times but failed to realize that all of this happened on the morning that each blossom first opened.  Only early risers with access to Cardinal Flowers have the opportunity to see this miracle of creation.  Flowers remain intact for several days attracting both hummingbirds and butterflies.  The purpose of these visits remains a mystery since pollination can only happen early in the morning with the flower parts quickly completing their tasks unaided.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Inside By 9

An intolerance of heat is increasing in severity as the years pass.  We tried to get in some garden work early in the day, but dry and dizzy quickly sent me inside.  We are fortunate in that the high temperature forecast for today has been lowered by three degrees to a mere 90.  That is within a degree of yesterday's high and we survived that so today looks like another inside the house day.

My large potted Cardinal Flowers needed weeding.  We intend for these plants to take the place of early spring potted plants.  Each of these will come out of winter with up to six daughter plants growing around the long dead stem of this year's flowering plant.  Planting out multiple young plants should increase the display next year.  I will also be spared carrying in four heavy trays of potted plants when frost threatens.  These twelve pots will likely require six trips to the basement.

A red flower can be seen growing close to the stone wall. Bee Balm is another native plant.  In his writings about the scarcity of Cardinal Flower, John Burroughs suggested the substitution of Bee Balm for a red flowering garden plant.  Its red is a great looking one and the plant spreads invasively.  That said, I do not know why I continue to try and reintroduce Cardinal Flower into the wild and carry it over in the gardens.  Bee Balm would require much less work and both the hummingbirds and hummingbird moths freely feed from its flowers.

Keeping these potted plants free of weeds has allowed me to see things never seen before.  At the end of the growing season, new plants are present around the old stem.  Perhaps these new plants are already up and growing.  Not every pot shows this early growth so we intend to watch and learn.  This pot contains two stems that will flower this year because the choice was not to pull them apart when they were transferred to pots early this spring.

Some time ago the discovery of deer footprints close by and a nipped off stem did not make me happy.  While weeding here today, the footprint was obvious but the cut stem could not be found.  Unable to fiercely trust the accuracy of my memory, I could not find the deer damage but remained shakily sure that it was present.  Becky quickly found it under the three new stems growing close to the damaged stem.  I have seen pictures of the results of pruning Cardinal Flower.  Knee high plants densely  covered with brilliant red flowers left a lasting impression.  Reluctant to prune a native treasure, tall thin natural displays are all that grow here.  This year that pesky fawn will allow me to see first hand the results of pruning Cardinal Flower.

This is the dry stone wall that lines the curved ramp to the basement.  Snakes are sometimes seen both inside of the wall and outside on level ground.  A garter snake and I have had numerous recent encounters.  This morning we found its shed skin and once again wondered just how the serpents use our stones to rub off their old skin.  This snake is already larger than most seen here.  Can't wait to see the larger version dressed in bright new skin.

Friday, July 19, 2019

An Interloper

We have been establishing a list of our various Daylilies in the order of their bloom and trying to clear up any mislabeling.  Some years ago the Asiatic and Oriental lilies really captured our imagination.  Despite their catalog climate zone listings, we saw them killed by frost year after year.  Efforts to protect them from late frost were only marginally successful and now we have basically given them up.  This stunning Golden Stargazer is growing near the house and that location has allowed this incredible plant to survive on its own.  Its flowers last for several days with this one's scent filling a large area.  One does not have to place the nose into the blossom to savor this treat.  Walking by at some distance is the best way to enjoy this fragrance.

Wineberry Candy is another delight likely coming from the same breeder as our other candies.  All of them are medium sized in both plant height and flower size.  The sharp change in color from white to purple is a real eye catcher.  Their scent is subdued as is appropriate for a classy beauty.

Becky Lynne was likely chosen for its first name.  The Becky that lives here shares many traits evident in this plant.  Understated light color gives this flower a softly stunning appearance.  Despite its light appearance this is one hardy plant that strongly holds its own space.

Here we have an improperly labeled plant.  Its stone says Royal Palace Prince but that is incorrect.  When our daytime temperatures moderate, I will search around the base of this plant to see if a correct name can be found.  When we were actively buying new plants, a clear bright yellow coloration was what we were searching for.  This blossom meets that requirement better than any of the other yellows that grow here.  Now we just need to find its correct name.

A small amount of time spent reading this blog revealed that this plant is not mislabeled.  It was sold to us as Royal Palace Prince but it clearly is not that variety.  We will never know the proper name of this variety but does that really matter?

Big Bird is aptly named.  Too big to be graceful, it simply flops over everything close by.  Its scent is pleasant and the yellow is close to what we were searching for.  Hardy and large, this variety has been successfully divided several times.

Rainless Rainbow

Rainbows are  fairly common at the Stone Wall Garden.  The amazing thing about the one  last evening was that we could find no sign of rain.  Ed even stepped outside to check and could not see any sign of rain in the west. The picture was taken from the living room window.  This view of the garden is a favorite of mine.  Usually Ed's stone walls are one of the starring features from this vantage point, but right now  lush garden growth has taken over making them disappear.

I have to wonder how we came to have a rainless rainbow.   The air was heavy with moisture.  Perhaps if the humidity was high enough, that did it?  In the end I am just happy that we got to see it and that I got  pictures to remember it was there.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Gentle Ed

This post title is not some declaration of the true character my inner self but is the varietal name of a plant.  The flower is somewhat understated.  Its petals are short and rounded with barely visible ruffled edges.  A yellow eye spot sharply contrasts with maroon petals but is controlled.  White midribs strongly anchor the petals.  When searching the catalogs for new plants, I must admit that this name was a strong factor in my choice.

Elegant Candy was never selected for purchase here.  A visit to a local one man breeding operation placed me in contact with a huge pot of an expensive and much desired plant.  Its price was more than reasonable but when we returned home the pot's contents of three plants became obvious.  One was the named plant while the other two were these.  Strong ruffles and a vigorous growth habit contribute to my feelings of having purchased a bargain but a sense of having been slickered lingers.

Blueberry Candy was clearly chosen.  Pale peach ruffled petals sharply contrast with the purple eyespot.  This plant is well proportioned with the smaller flowers matching a mid-sized plant.  Dreams of a large Daylily bed persist but deer relish their flower buds.  A fenced large bed would look horrible and the deer would simply jump the fence to get to the buds.  Urine sprinkled on the ground keeps the deer away but the desired garden would be close to the public road.

Indian Giver is the horrible name of this beautiful flower.  It is offered for sale at $50.00 or more and may be well worth that price but I am slow to part with that much money.  This was the third plant purchased with Elegant Candy.  It has grown large enough to divide but I remain reluctant to hack apart a plant this beautiful.  Here we have more white ruffled edges on purple petals.

Ivory Edges is a rather obvious name for this stunning flower.  An exploding eyespot close to clearly defined ruffled edges makes a statement that can be easily seen from some distance away.  More than three dozen Daylilies grow here and I sometimes wonder what will become of them when I am elsewhere.  These plants hold their own against the weeds and would likely expand over a decade of no care.

Yellow Chiffon looks a little beat by mid afternoon on a cloudless hot July day.  Many mail order businesses offer a free plant with orders.  Usually these plants were unique enough to obtain varietal names but failed to gain wide acceptance.  This plant is modest in size and the flowers fade early in the day.  It arrived here hiding a horrible secret in its root mass.  A never before seen  sedge soon grew from the daylily root mass.  We have been diligently weeding it out for years but it remains an ever present wandering pest.  The triangular stem of that pest reminds us of the free plant with a secret that just keeps on giving.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Dazzling First Daylilies

As a child of the fifties growing up in Newfield, N.Y., walking to school placed me close to sewage in the roadside ditches.  In areas where only the moisture gathered, orange Daylilies grew in great numbers.  Clever children that we were, they were named sewer lilies.  As an adult gardener, I had no interest in placing sewer lilies among my coveted plants.  Susan of Afton needed to clear out some of her plants and three different varieties came home with us.  Their varietal names have long ago been forgotten but their mixed coloration made Daylilies worthy of a second look.

Destined To See was the first fancy lily purchased.  The simpler structure of the single flowers resulted in their widespread presence at Stone Wall Garden.  Ruffled edges and pleasing scent are considered necessary characteristics for new purchases.  This plant has been divided once and if the new ground is ready next spring it will be divided again.  Many winter hours were spend with plant catalogs considering which would be planted here and our first choice remains among the plants we truly treasure.

Aurora Raspberry displays the coveted characteristic of pie crust edging.  It is hard to believe that this beautifully complex flower will last for only a single day.  Many find the dead blossom remains prohibitively ugly and therefore do not grow these plants.  We find a mid-morning walk among the flowers peaceful and snapping off the spent flowers is simply another reason to sample the scent and sight of newly opened flowers.

Molokai is perhaps the most vigorous of out many varieties.  Planted in a bed that was taken back by the quack grass, Molokai fought the invaders and relished transplantation.  Twice divided, the hardiness and clear bright yellow color make this a favorite here.  Once again a ruffled edge completes a beautiful picture.

Chicago Arnie's Choice is another early purchase.  Its hardiness alone makes it a candidate for division.  Now we understand Susan's need to find new homes for plants that are overcrowding their allotted space.  Several people have expressed their willingness to take our extra plants if we dig, divide and deliver them.  Somehow working with plants that will remain here seems a better use of our time.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Moss Island

We spent a great deal of time yesterday working on the garden down by the road.  Few of the stones in the distant planting area were in place when we first arrived here.  Our goal is to have walking paths so that one can safely walk among the plants with no risk of stepping on any treasures.  Aside from the fallen sumac leaves, this ground looks interesting.  The pit manure truck in the background was never intended to be part of the picture but our reality is that a truck like this one or a beat pickup truck is likely to be captured.  From this vantage point we do not have a totally natural woodland garden.

A rather large stone lies in the newly defined planting area.  I was able to move it by flipping it end over end.  Now I cannot raise it.  A hammer and chisel have opened the beginnings of a crack but I can no longer swing that sledge hammer endlessly.  A return visit is planned to attempt to deepen the crack and split the stone in half.  Then the stone will be flipped to its final resting place with the option of placing the two pieces one on top of the other.

Our method for removing highly invasive pasture grass is shown here.  Thick layers of grass clippings are spread over the weeds.  They easily penetrate the cover but the roots develop on the surface between the soil and the clippings.  After a year or two passes it is not an impossible job to roll up the mat and the weeds leaving mostly clean soil behind.  The area covered with chopped tree leaves was covered with weeds when we arrived.  Becky did a masterful job of clearing this area.  An occasional weed will appear but the plan is to place plants here next spring.  With any luck the cleared area will expand this summer.

The poet Robert Frost wrote about the mystery created by a bend in the road.  His words helped place these path stones.  Despite my efforts to define smooth curves, it appears that creating straight lines is my default method.

The last glacier dumped a huge load of broken stones here.  Some are pieces of nearby ridge sedimentary rock while others made a journey of some distance from the deeper sea to our north.  This rock is unusually heavy for its size indicating the likely presence of limestone.  Its moss grew here so it presents an image of both far away and nearby.

Our Wild Ginger is growing strongly in its new location.  New growth is pushing outward. Here the plant will have the option of placing growth in the cracks between the stones making visible the usually hidden from view flowers.  That will not happen quickly but we can be patient.

Most of the rocks visible in this photo started the day on the jumble of stones at the edge of the nearby field.  Fallen down barbed wire fence and ground littered with stones and holes had to be crossed to gather these moss covered stones.  Twenty-four round trips were safely made and these stones are now part of our garden.  Great care was taken handling these stones since the bond holding moss to stone is easily broken.  With any luck the new home will prove satisfactory and the moss will remain in place.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Trash To Treasure

When we purchased this land 25 years ago, we  knew that our new land was part of a Colonial farm.  Since the farmhouse was large and stylishly built, the land was expected to be well suited to farming.  Our tumbled land overlooked the river bottom land that likely made the farm prosperous.  Unknown to us was the fact that the farmhouse also served as an inn for people making the two day journey from Sidney to Gilbertsville.

Following the closing, hand tools were brought to the location selected for our new garden.  Imagine our shocked surprise when a four tined spade could not be pushed into the ground.  Glacier broken stones littered the soil in huge numbers.  A wire mesh screen was pressed into action to separate soil from stone.  That method is still in use today but at least one new screen had to be built.

A use for all of  that stone had to be found.  Planting beds five feet wide were edged with stone paths three feet wide.  That still left us with more stone than could be used so the extra was dumped where we needed a driveway.  This sounds like an immense amount of work for a soon to be retired schoolteacher because it was.  I am not alone in believing that both the physical work and keeping my body in a condition  that could handle that exertion are major factors in my continued presence here.

It may also be my Irish genetic inheritance that compels me to work poor stony soil.  I enjoy both the required effort and the finished product.  There is almost no dollar cost to time spent this way.   Piling these irregular stone shapes into a hidden wall that keeps the path out of the planting bed is satisfying.  Another wall is necessary to keep the stones out of the lawn and it soon will follow.  The finished path is both functional and attractive.  Some weeds will appear in the path but their numbers will remain small if the interlopers are pulled.

This area in front of our house should be finished this summer.  Several stone dams lessen the slope where we plant and they have been in place for more than a few years.  Another stone path lies between the house and the planted ground.  Not only does it handle roof runoff but if provides us with a place to stand to tend the plants.  Many do not understand why so much time is spent with shovel in hand but I find both the physical effort and the mental task of securely placing irregular stones extremely satisfying.