Monday, September 30, 2019

Bow Season Starts Tomorrow

Our nearby gardens have suffered extensive deer damage this summer.  This group's ownership of our ground is so strong that their only reaction to the opening of the living room window was to look up.  That mother caressing her fawn is the one deer that I really want gone.  Each year she has twins and her loving bond with her offspring is so strong that they will still be at her side when the next batch are born.  It is possible that every animal in this photo is related to her.

Two additional deer moving down the hill got their attention.  Ground pawing and snorts sent the interlopers eastward.  Having never hunted we are unfamiliar with just how the thrill of the hunt builds.  I have suggested that the chosen hunters park near the road and walk to the house.  Stepping out of its shadow, an easy arrow could be launched.  If more of a hunt is desired, a stealthy approach through the undergrowth seen in the background would allow the hunters to experience a more traditional hunt.  In any event this group of deer both start and end their day on what is our lawn.  We are looking forward to a successful hunt.  There are simply an excessive number of deer here and they see this ground as theirs.

Here is a little seasonal color to help set the mood.  The two huge maples deeper in this side valley that usually glow orange have already shed their leaves.  We were late to drive here, but this small orange colored tree still holds most of its leaves.

My shadow falling on New England asters and Rudbeckia triloba growing in our garden near the road does not spoil this beautiful combination of purple and yellow.  We know what will follow but now we simply enjoy the beauty that surrounds us.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

First Autumn Red

 This first photo was taken a couple of weeks ago.  A storm featuring rain and wind dropped this sumac stem to the ground.  The beginning loss of chlorophyll allowed some of the red pigmentation that was always present in the leaf to be seen.  Usually leaves in this early state of change in color are high up in the tree out of sight.  Their early trip to the ground presented us with this never before seen amazing image.  This time we were in the right place at the right time.

Yesterday this fallen cluster was found.  Individual leaves range in color from solid red to wildly striped illustrating the process of color change.  In response to diminished sunlight, both in duration and intensity, and lower temperatures, these trees blocked the flow of moisture and nutrients to their leaves.  This caused the decline in the green chlorophyll allowing the ever present red coloration to take center stage.

Sumac trees are generally seen as trash trees.  That has not always been the case as the trunk wood includes a lighter colored core that was in earlier times inlaid to accent wooden jewelry boxes.  If one can overlook their current reputation, perhaps the brightest red leaves of the season can now be enjoyed.   We were a few days late driving to these roadside ditch filling trees.  Droopy dryness detracts from the brilliant red that was stunning just recently but is still worth seeing.

The darker red leaves suggests that the change in color happened earlier  on this tree.  Sumac trees are relatively free of the dark rot so common on maple leaves.  Green trees can be seen on the ridge behind the sumac.  Their time of seasonal color is yet to come.  We know of a small cluster of huge old maple trees whose leaves turn bright orange.  We will make a detour today to see if this is their time to shine.  At the end of the season, a wooded hillside near Otselic features a particular variety of oak trees whose leaves turn purple in color.  This valley is wide and the ridge is visible for miles.  The purple colored trees spread across this forest of mixed hardwoods.  It is a sight that is well worth the drive needed to see it.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Asters, Milkweed And Monarchs

The garden has gone a bit wild,   New England Asters are the outstanding plants in the garden on these warm Autumn days.  This clump has milkweed fluff caught in its flowers.  It will take a strong wind to dislodge the silky parachutes from there.

These are the glorious days of the purple of asters and the gold of goldenrod.  I think they make a beautiful combination.  The Monarchs love them too.  With so many Monarchs soaring over the garden it's not so hard to snap a great  picture.

I pushed my luck and tried for a picture of two Monarchs feeding next to each other.  In the blink of an eye one of them was gone.  I was a little disappointed sure I had missed a great shot again.  It was not until I loaded the pictures that I saw that I  caught the second butterfly in mid flight, inverted no less.  Who knew they could fly like that.  I'm going to call these two Maverick and Goose.  I always thought the hummingbirds were the fancy fliers in the garden. Many of the birds have already headed south.  The Monarchs will go soon, but until that happens the garden is a delightful place to be!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Substantial Progress

Every trick in our gardening book is on display in this picture.  Quack grass has a firm hold on our ground and will quickly reclaim it when we no longer garden here.  We  do still garden here and continue to cultivate new ground.  Thick piles of grass clippings allow us to rather easily remove both the quack grass and its wildly invasive just under the surface white roots.  If any trace of these roots are left behind, the entire plant quickly reappears.  It appears both angry and determined as its new growth is quick and spreading.  The grass clippings rot down forming a fibrous mat.  Quack grass roots reform between the ground and the rotting clippings.  It is relatively easy to remove everything at once leaving behind bare soil.

Plastic bags containing last years tree leaves will help us maintain our hold on newly cleared ground.  A trip through the push mower will transform this waste to miracle mulch.  Placed under the sumac trees, rotting leaves help create woodland soil for the shade loving plants placed there.  Out in the open, chopped leaves maintain adequate moisture in the covered soil, smother weeds and rot down producing rich fertile soil.

Yesterday we cleared to about the middle of what will become our sunny meadow planting.  Nearly all of our tools are in the photo.  The spade is pushed under the grass in a more horizontal move than its usual push straight down into the soil.  Lifting the end of the handle rolls up mats of rotting clippings and complete quack grass plants.  It is amazingly satisfying to totally remove this pest from what will soon become home for sun loving native plants.

This is our pile of recently removed vegetation.  Since it started by filling in a depression, this mass is more then six feet tall.  Its major component is rotting grass clippings so finished compost will rather quickly be available for our use.

Today we nearly reached the property line separating our garden from the neighbor's mowed field.  Cinder blocks have been placed well outside of the right-of-way for several years and will be removed when this ground is planted.  Low growing rugged plants will be placed near the turn should the twelve foot wide path be insufficient for whatever combination of big truck and big camper needs to drive on the garden.  Hopefully that event will remain uncommon although it almost occurred last weekend.  The driver was skilled and declined my offer to move the cinder blocks.  His exit was therefore uneventful.

We would like to begin placing plants in this new ground now.  If wisdom prevails, we will wait until spring to allow any missed pieces of weed to show themselves.  Complete removal will again be tried giving our chosen plants a head start on the determined weed.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Moss or Fern?

Our ignorance of both ferns and mosses is nearly complete.  Moss covered stones widely litter spots that they find suitable for growth across our acres.  We have been moving some to our developing shade garden intending for them to clearly mark what is path from what is growing ground.  Nearly every recent trip across out acres has us looking for suitable stones.  In only one area of our woods does this tufted moss grow.  It is far different from our other mosses because of its bright green spheres growing some distance above the ground.  Yesterday marked my need to move five of these plants into the recently filled planting island.  In time they may grow together from path to path.

A closeup of this transplant reveals each hairless stalk sporting spherical growth at its tip.  Most people commonly picture moss as a flat close to the ground plant of no distinction.  We wondered if this plant might be a fern.  Each uprooted clump sported roots that penetrated into the soil much in the manner of ferns.  Mosses frequently cement themselves to some favorable rock while displaying little resembling roots.

This plant is undisturbed growing as it has into the forest soil.  Two more typical mosses can be seen on the right edge of the photo.  We wanted to know more and purchased a copy of Common Mosses Of The Northeast And Appalachians.  Its three hundred ninety two pages quickly revealed to us that we were in way over our heads.  An early statement in the book pointed out the absolute need to purchase a microscope if one is serious about learning mosses.  No microscope exists here but we have a tentative identification of our moss.  Juniper Haircap Moss may be its name.  Perhaps I am not alone in seeing some contradiction in the scholarly technical description using the word haircap in a proper name.

This picture of the forest floor in the general area where our treasure was found shows both ferns and mosses growing close by each other.  I may be nearly alone but I find this scene peacefully beautiful.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Hemlock Soil

Downy rattlesnake plantain is ending its first year with us.  The texture and color of its leaves are obvious reasons for this purchase.  Up until a rabbit nipped of the flower stalk, this orchid had settled in to our shade garden nicely.  Of course we plan to buy more plants next spring and a wire cage will keep the rabbits away.  Three of each variety seems like an absolute minimum for a decent display.  We want this plant to thrive here and read that soil under hemlock trees promotes impressive growth.

We have hemlock trees growing in great numbers in our back woods.  Tools and containers were trucked close to where these trees have grown undisturbed for decades.  This dead tree has drawn the attention of at least one Pileated woodpecker.  The sound created with its drilling for food carries for a great distance.  We scooped up 20 gallons of suitable soil under several trees.  We mined in different locations to lessen the disturbance in any one place.  Kicking nearby soil into our holes left the area looking undisturbed by humans .

The area close to the Rattlesnake plantain was carefully filled with sifted forest soil.  At some distance away from the roots of the existing plant, excavation opened deeper areas for this rich acidic woods dirt.  If we can find more plants next spring, their new homes are now move in ready.

Close by is another plant that is described as a ground cover.  Bunchberry has never done much for us.  We manage to keep it alive for a year or two but it never expands to new ground.  Here again we read that this plant thrives under hemlock trees.  Our hemlock trees are far to remote to plant bunchberry under them but we can still bring proper soil to the desired location in our woodland garden.  Here again new plants will be purchased to see if we can approach growth that resembles a ground cover.  This having the soil ready before new plants are purchased feels like a responsible way to garden.  It is amazing just how long it has taken us to put this plan into action.  Even so we know that a new plant discovery will occur while we are buying the planned for  plants. 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Second Season Native Plants

It is easy to understand the wild eyed excitement over the emergence of early spring native flowers.  Seeing just which ones survived another winter is guaranteed to stoke a fire in the heart of any gardener.  By mid September, with weeds in general control, the asters spark renewed interest for many.  Literally hundreds of asters are native to North America and their proper identification is way beyond our skill set.  The first picture features an aster growing close to the edge of our driveway.  The books are off the shelf while we look for a possible name for this attractive plant.

New England Asters are common here as ditch weeds.  Road crews mow them down and still they  flower on stems less than one foot tall.  A group planted in front of our home tower over me.  Deer are fond of their taste and many of our cultivated plants have been deer trimmed.  My only complaint about their work is that the top of such plants are totally flat.  Some roundness on a trimmed bush can be very attractive.

This is another wild plant growing next to the lane.  Its leaves are dark green and the flowers are tiny.  We have yet to find a proper name for this plant.  Last fall we moved several asters into our garden.  We felt that controlled growth would help us identify these plants.  Unfortunately the resident deer found them and ate them.  A cage was placed to cover the remains and enough recovery followed so flowers should soon be seen.

This aster looks like a Robin's Plantain flowering way out of season.   Few of these are here and we simply must intervene and try to help it along..

Light blue petals on a newly opened flower set this plant apart from the rest.  The photo shows a leaf growing around the stem rather than just extending outward from it.  This is typical of other asters.

Here we have a wild New England Aster fighting for existence in a sea of Goldenrod.  We find this combination of colors attractive and intend to copy it in our new garden.  Since Goldenrod overwhelms all other plants, we will give the asters several years of controlled growth before we introduce the Goldenrod.  The final outcome is certain but we have a limited number of years remaining in our stewardship of this land.  We will get to enjoy the color combination with purple overwhelming yellow.

This patch of a small flowered white aster is more than holding its own.  A piece of this clump was moved into our garden last fall.  It is recovering nicely from the deer pruning and we are looking forward to see just how much new ground the transplant has claimed.  We are able to transplant native plants successfully but must then cover them with wire cages to keep hungry animals at bay.  That is a contradiction that we must simply live with.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Seasonal Change

September is a time of major change in northern gardens.  Weeds are racing to grow large and produce seemingly billions of seeds.  It is still dark outside at wake up time.  Our treasured Cardinal Flower is at the end of its natural time to flower.  Few blossoms remain but this plant is also getting ready for next seasons growth.  Each flower has been replaced by a developing seed cluster.  Soon thousands of these seeds will fall on our meticulously prepared woodland soil.   As is frequently the case with beautiful things, these seeds require special conditions to grow.  Light, warmth and moisture must all appear at a specific time if germination is to be successful.  New plants from seed do appear here but only in limited numbers partly because their time to grow makes them look like weeds.

This is also the time when another pathway to next year's plants is under development.  All of the plant that flowered this year will soon die and disappear.  Around the base of the stem up to six daughter plants are now forming.  They are evergreen and will make a strong appearance as snow finally melts next spring.  In this part of the state late winter temperatures range wildly and death by freezing often ends this new growth.  For now things look great for next season's plants.

Another native treasure is also ending its display of beauty and scent.  Reproduction by root runners is Summer Sweet's primary means of reproduction.  What happens to all of these seeds remains unknown here.  Traces of scent can still be found but the nearness of bees and the limited number of blossoms adds to the experience. So far we share without incident.  Both the bees and the people are mellowed by the fragrance.

We grow Lemongrass  far outside of its natural tropical range.  In spite of that they do well outside in the garden.   These  prize plants will survive inside of the house but do not not enjoy our indoor temperature that never climbs above 68 degrees.  A sunny location in the warmest spot in the house will carry these plants until June.  With overnight lows forecast to be in the low forties, the time to bring these plants inside of the house is now.

Our resident deer walked across these Cardinal Flower plants flattening their stems.  At every leaf stem joint new growth appeared.  The time required for the plants to recover from the damage is responsible for this late stunning display.  Marauding deer do not usually make a positive impact on our plants but this late display is outstanding. Becky saw a female hummingbird on the Rose of Sharon this morning.  I'm sure she appreciates these brilliant red flowers too!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Hepatica In September

For the most part, we came to native wildflowers rather late in life.  Becky has an incomplete memory of Arbutus that is limited to instantaneous recognition of its scent.  Trillium and Jack In The Pulpit are the extent of my childhood flower memories.  In our retirement years those three plants were our focus in establishing a wildflower garden.

The pictured Hepatica has been with us for a number of years.  Surrounded by weeds, it seems to have escaped any recent notice.  That speaks of possible ignorance on our part since many of our native plants are at rest showing no above ground growth now.

This Hepatica may be in its second year with us.  Planted in the new garden, most of the surrounding ground is bare with the exception of shredded leaves.  Finally the fact that these leaves will survive winter made an impression on me.  This plant is among the first to flower here.  That is just the beginning of its display.

The first two photos were taken today.  The next two show flowers open in April.  The Popsicle stick label identifies this plant as a resident of our new shade garden.  A three lobed leaf shows both the remains of a blossom and the source of the name Liverwort.  As this leaf matures it will more closely resemble a human liver as legend has it.  Perhaps the resemblance will be to three closely spaced livers.

This picture was taken in a wooded area just across the Unadilla River.  There a dirt road climbs uphill where a bank lies close to the road.  Looking up at flowers growing there creates stunning images of flower parts usually hidden from view.  This picture is special for two reasons.  First, a purple flower always catches my eye.  Secondly, the three lobed leaf was formed in the previous year.  Hepatica blossoms appear before the new leaves push themselves past the fallen leaf litter.  Old winter worn leaves provide the nourishment for these early flowers.  Leaves visible in the first two pictures will appear next spring darkened and worn by their winter under the snow.

One location near the top of the slope above the roadway features a huge display of Hepatica plants.  Growing between stones and ferns, their early blossoms, create a stunning image.  My plan for spring is to place a large number of newly purchased plants near the moss covered stones that now line a new planting area in our shade garden.