Friday, June 19, 2020

Self Planted

It should come as no surprise that most of the plants growing in any garden are there as a result of no action by the gardener.  Feeding birds spill as many seeds as they eat.  Wind shakes free countless seeds.  Most of these self planted seeds produce weeds but sometimes genuine beauty is the result.  Foxgloves are widespread in our gardens but we planted none of them recently.  Location dictates that some are weeded out while others are treasured.  These are of an unusual color that was not accurately captured by the camera.  Growing on the edge of a stone path adjacent to a rich planting bed, these plants have found everything they need to flourish.

Recently we cleared a bed that had lain fallow for two years.  We needed a place to plant pie pumpkins and butternut squash.  These sunflowers were found here as a result of no action on our part and they will remain.  Years ago Becky operated a pet store that sold tons of a high quality bird seed purchased from Apple's Aviary.  Plants like these first appeared under our bird feeder.  They are robust and tall with many flowers on each plant.  We find them to be an excellent garden flower and allow them to grow if their presence will not interfere with chosen garden subjects.  More plants than needed hold this area and we will leave them mostly alone.  We did bring in chopped leaves to both smother new weeds and keep the soil rich and moist.  When the squash and pumpkin plants take over this area, the height of the sunflowers should allow them to grow and flower.

These pinks make seed by the millions.  They are allowed to grow largely unchecked in this bed in front of the house.  We are considering introducing them down by the road.  Seed heads will be cut at the appropriate time and simply placed on the ground.  This riot of color will follow the next year and every year after that.

A close up picture reveals both the flower's form and intense color.  Not bad for a pernicious weed.

Longest Name Ever

Campanula Portenschlagiana was the name listed in a mail order catalog to identify this plant.  Our purchase was not driven by a desire to have what may be the longest name assigned to any flower but by its location on the vertical face of a dry stone wall.  That alone made it a must have plant without even considering its blossom color.  That initial purchase was made at least seven years ago and the plant continues to grow from a crevice in our dry stone wall.

Dalmation Bellflower is an easier name to both pronounce and remember.  Its native location in the Dalmation Mountains of Croatia identifies the source of the name but why that name was given to the mountains remains unknown here.  Beauty alone is a sufficient reason to make this a must have plant.

This is an evergreen plant but that characteristic comes with a down side.  Located at an easy height for hungry deer may explain the hole in the center of this plant.  Deer damage did not destroy the plant but protection seemed to be in order.  Welded wire fence once again provided a deer proof barrier.  We have yet tested to see if the deer would eat this plant away from winter.  Cage construction makes the protection easy to remove so we can enjoy this plant with the barrier removed.

This plant moved itself up to the horizontal surface of the wall.  Similar placement in that location would greatly improve the first impression made by the wall down near the road.  But then there is the issue of an ugly wire cage.  Descriptions of using this plant to fill the cracks in rough stone paths are common.  Its height might prove to be something to trip over and we do not need to make garden walking less safe.  This plant is well suited to placement as a ground cover.

This small new plant placed itself in this location.  Perhaps a small animal was involved in seed distribution.  In any event the picture shows that soil finds its own way to the front edge of a stone wall.  Our initial planting consisted of shoving a plant into such an opening.  We did not expect the transplant to remain where we put it but it has flourished.  Except for the deer issue, Dalmation Bellflower has proven itself to be a highly desirable plant.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Ownership In Question

Yesterday Becky discovered a huge disturbance in the shade garden near the house.  Soil had been pushed some distance from a freshly dug hole.  Actual plant damage was minimal but the new tunnel provided easy entrance for a five foot long pry bar.  Several stabbing thrusts were made to try and detect the intruder. Feeling no resistance and hearing no screams of pain, we began to refill the tunnel.  As we were nearing complete replacement of the disturbed soil, water was poured into the tunnel.  Ten gallons filled the hole with a small pond at the surface.  When that drained away five more gallons were added. It took an additional six gallons of woodland soil to fill the hole and restore the garden surface.  A trap was set and we called it a job well done.

This morning a new hole was found.  This time very little disturbed soil littered the ground surface.  Could it be that the woodchuck had been in the hole the entire time that we were working to restore order?  The long narrow indentation running to the edge of the picture was made by the pry bar.  Today it only took three feet to find the end of the tunnel.  With the small amount of disturbed soil at the surface, the critter must have pushed soil behind him as he made his exit.  Four more gallons of mixed woodland soil seemingly filled the hole.  Now we wait.

When I opened the shed door to get the pry bar, I did not notice the sleeping fawn.  When I returned to get the bucket of soil the deer was seen.  A quiet retreat allowed me to get Becky and her camera.  The only motion from the deer was shallow breathing.  We left the area as soon as the picture was taken.  This is the closest we have ever been to a deer.  That statement is wrong.  Last year a young buck with velvet covered horns wanted to be petted or have his horns scratched.  It took a long while to finally drive him away.  So here we are.  We think that this land is ours with considerable time having been spent to establish gardens.  Perhaps the wildlife are simply waiting for us to leave.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Bleeding Heart

We have encountered at least one picture similar to this one on Google Images but rest assured this photo is ours.  Every now and then our point and shoot simple camera captures magic.  There are about twenty different varieties of this plant that occur naturally in Asia, Europe and North America.  It is easy to see why Bleeding Heart has been a garden favorite for many generations.  I can recall a huge plant like this one placed as a foundation planting alongside of my babysitter's house.  Babysitter is not an accurate term since she covered time after school and before my parents returned home after work.

The relative lack of flowers on these plants speaks of the harsh weather endured this Spring.  We felt fortunate that any blossoms appeared.  Violet Bee Balm is the name of the plants behind the bench.  Their close placement by the bench was deliberate so that we could sit there while hummingbird moths zipped about feeding on the flowers.  These insects are fearless and it is quite an experience to sit among them.

This Fern Leaf Bleeding Heart is a cross between a Japanese native and two American plants.  Its small size makes placement in home gardens easier.  The silver foliage is also a bonus.  Our unreliable memory identifies this plant as a natural replacement for the original mail order plant that died.  This also raises a question of just how the new plant formed since sterile hybrid is listed as a characteristic of this plant.  Perhaps a root offset of the original is the source of this delightful plant.

This white flowered plant is a new addition this year.  Purchased from a local nursery, it looks like a survivor.  Fern Leaf is also part of its name.  It was placed where a smaller plant will look good.  We hope that our collection of Bleeding Hearts will expand and firmly hold their ground without a great deal of effort from us.  One of the Old Fashioned plants by the bench has sent out a daughter plant that will be moved next year.  One simply cannot have too many Bleeding Hearts.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Ragged Robin

Despite our recent scant rainfall, this level ground is still holding standing water.  Tree growth is on the remains of the bedrock ridge.  There springs steadily ooze water but there is no outlet.  Seeping into the gravel filled level ground keeps the depth of the trapped water from overflowing my shoes.  By stepping on the centers of the ferns, I was able to reach the pink flowers still some distance away.

Ragged robin is an old European import much like my ancestors.  We commonly see it growing in vast tracts on abandoned fields or in roadside ditches.  None of this plant was growing here when we purchased this land.  A fellow teacher gave me permission to dig some from her ditch.  That was one quarter of a century ago yet the size of our patch remains small.  My guess is that slightly drier soil would be more to its liking.

The mowed area is limited by level appearing ground that is littered with mostly dry channels where water sometimes flows.  Uneven ground with occasional chunks of bedrock is difficult to walk across and impossible to cross with a lawn tractor.  When we found this land twenty-five years ago, it was used to pasture horses.  They had free range over the entire thirty-six acres and their presence kept the fields free of invasive shrubs and briers.  With the horses gone, Japanese honeysuckle steadily claimed this ground.  It took us several years to regain control over this meadow.  Our mowing is intended to discourage Goldenrod and the bushes.  A great deal of time is spent  as this location since it is both beautiful and quiet.  This view is looking to the east.  The Ragged robin is located behind the darker. trees at the far right of the beautiful blue sky in this picture.  In my younger days I gained the land owner's permission to hike to the top of the ridge.  During the return trip we saw the dark hairy backside of a sizable animal disappearing into the brush.  It may have been a bear since this is the edge of several square miles of mostly wild land crossed only by one seasonal dirt road.

A ninety degree turn reveals the view looking to the north.  Just how the retreating glacier formed this land remains a mystery.  Four level meadows can be seen in both pictures each at a different elevation.  The highest one might be a kame terrace marking a location where glacial meltwater roared between the ridge and the ice mass.  It is the highest deposit in this area.  Standing on it suggests a location on an aircraft carrier. Long distance views are breathtaking but  road noise identifies nearby civilization.  We feel fortunate to have called this ground home.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

New Black Swallowtail, The Sequel

It is a beautiful day to be in the garden.  In spite of the long list of things we wanted  to accomplish this morning, pictures of this newly hatched Eastern black swallowtail butterfly had to be taken. The female butterfly had finished pumping up her wings and was warming up on the stone ramp that leads down to the basement of the house. We were on our way to plant the pumpkins and the butternut squash.  Ed came out the basement door and called me to get the camera. He took these pictures then  carefully stepped around the butterfly.   We had seeds to plant so  we did not wait for her to fly away this time, but when we returned right before lunch she was gone.

 Ed's stone wall provides lots of spots for a  butterfly chrysalis to winter over.  It is not the first time we have had a chance to take a picture like this.  On June 26 of 2010 another new black swallowtail  picture was taken.  That was ten years ago.   It also was a female.  I would like to think that the two specimens are related.  The family resemblance is definite.We have had a thing for butterflies for a very long time!  If you click on the date, the blog will take you back to that ten year old post.  Ed wrote it and it is one of my favorites!

This time Ed got a chance to get a great shot of the underside of the butterfly's left wing.  Living here where we do we get to observe  butterflies closely without interfering their life.  What a huge improvement over killing them and sticking them with a pin. 

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Where There Is Smoke...

Ed snapped this great picture of my Prairie Smoke plant.  All of the pictures I took of these delicate  smoke plumes  were blurry.  Perhaps it was because I was so excited to have this plant whose pictures in catalogs and books filled me with burning desire.

There are actually two of these plants planted in front of Jane's dark purple iris.  You can have your winning lottery ticket.  For a plant person like me, this is winning big!

The Latin name for this plant is Geum triflorum. True to the name the flowers come in threes.  It is a semi-evergreen perennial.  I confess I had to look that one up.  It means that the old leaves die when the new leaves form.  This picture was taken on May 6. This fantastic plant has been  flowering for a month even though the weather has been  extremely erratic.

It was April 30 when this picture was taken.  I carefully tidied up around the plants and redid the stone beforehand.  Let's just say I was overexcited when I wrote Prairie Fire instead of Prairie Smoke.  Oops!  It is easy to see that there are two individual plants here.  One is much larger than the other.

I'm fairly sure that the water droplets on this newly emerged Prairie Smoke came from melted frost.  I have been enjoying this delightful native wildflower for two whole months.  Maybe love's passionate flame goes up in smoke, but it certainly is glorious while it lasts!

Friday, June 5, 2020

New Growth

Perhaps my repeated visits with Trailing Arbutus are becoming tiresome.  This native plant has a long history of resisting transplanting.  A general Google search looking for information on how to move this plant will yield several articles dealing with a European tree that has arbutus in its name.  Then my 2014 post dealing with my successful move of this ground cover will appear.  First in a Google search might be seen as a big deal.  Today we will take a look at just what these plants are up to six years later.

Arbutus is an evergreen plant.  Old leaves are dark green and leathery to the touch.  Just how long these leaves live remains unknown to me.  Dead leaves are rarely seen.  Now that the season of flowering is past, new growth is appearing in impressive quantities.  Reddish hairy stems extend outward for a great distance.  In the center of the picture a side shoot bearing a new leaf can be seen.  The point of junction between the new stem and new leaf is where flower bud clusters will appear later this Fall.

Now that these wild plants have firmly established themselves we mostly leave them alone.  Fallen pine needles remain where they fell since we no longer remove them intending to keep the Arbutus leaves in full daylight.  This natural sight is seriously marred by the wire cage that covers each planting.  These plants would not exist without this protection.  Both woodchucks and rabbits have heavily eaten these plants in the early Spring when other green plant growth is rare.  It is likely that these cages are the reason why my transplants survive when others failed.

Our late Winter weather was brutal this year.  Repeated hard frosts and numbing cold did major damage to many plants.  Arbutus blooms early and is equipped to deal with harsh weather.  Its leaves remain undamaged and the flowers were beautiful but developing seed clusters have been hard to find. That may have been the result of missing pollinators. These female flowers were unfertilized so the plants continued survival depends on the new leaf growth and next year's blossoms.

Only one developing seed cluster was found after a careful search of all four different plantings. In the past seed clusters have appeared earlier.  The two flower remains at the top of the cluster are developing seeds but are days behind the others. In the past seed capsules have appeared much earlier.   We have watched seeds form here for many years but have yet to see a new plant from our seed appear.  The dense growth would make finding a new plant difficult.  Our attempts to grow new plants from harvested seed always ended in failure while reports of greenhouse attempts are successful.  We are at the point in our lives where just enjoying these plants as they grow on their own is a special pleasure.  The promise of those fragrant flowers makes the spring of 2021 something to anticipate.