Monday, August 31, 2009

A bee on her bonnet

Did you know you can tell the temperature by counting cricket chirps? The frequency of chirping varies according to temperature. To get a rough estimate of the temperature in degrees fahrenheit, count the number of chirps in 15 seconds and then add 37. The number you get will approximately equal the outside temperature.

Last night there were no crickets chirping. The over night temperature was hovering around 40-degrees--pretty cold for August. Strange weather this year. We've broken two record low temperatures and set two records for rainfall amounts.

Helenium "Mardi Gras" reminds me of a country square dance. Ladies twirling across the floor with frothy skirts billowing out in perfect circles. Or maybe it's more like a hat of many colors worn in some sunny climate by a very cheerful woman.

I should make a list of plants that make me smile. Don't we all have plants that make us feel light hearted? Some plants make us sigh "oww" or 'ahh" when we see their beautiful blooms. A few plants make us frown;) For me it's the sunflower types that just turn up the corners of my mouth.

Mardi Gras' flowers have been very long lasting. It began blooming in July and the flowers still look nice. Helenium needs more moisture than I like but I sited this one near the birdbath so it could get a little extra water when needed.

I found "Mardi Gras" at Home Depot along with a darker colored version that hasn't bloomed yet but has lots of buds.

Hope everyone has a wonderful week.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Boltonia "Jim Crockett"

This little plant deserves two thumbs up. A non stop bloomer starting with a small show in July and now completely covered with little lavender daisies.

Don't be alarmed if the word boltonia conjures up images of a floppy shrub-like monster sprawling all over everything with 10 feet of it. This is the new and improved boltonia. Jim Crockett will remain under three feet tall. Mine was a foot tall and wide when I planted it and has increased to two feet tall and three feet wide.

No sign of mildew and it is drought tolerant. I planted one in very sharp drainage and the other in clay with only six hours of sun. We will see next year how they adapt to their new home. No pests but the tiny predatory wasps and flies like it as does the Pearl Crescent butterfly.

I'm very happy with this late season bloomer and recommend it to anyone in zones 5-8. Be sure to give it a site with good drainage if possible.

You sometimes find good plants in odd places. Mine were discovered in K-Mart/Sears garden center for a reasonable price. Haven't seen them anywhere else this year.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Rudbeckia Triloba

What a morning! Didn't sleep well last night so I was
tired and cranky when I finally got up. Fed the cats and Hocus promptly threw up his breakfast on the kitchen floor. Stop everything and clean that up. Running behind, open the kitchen door and the knob comes off in my hand. Waste precious minutes trying to fit it back on the door, no luck, gotta go. Start the car and remember I forgot my purse inside. Back to the house but I can't get in, broken door will not unlock. Climbed through the dining room window... glad nobody could see that. Grabbed my purse, still can't get the kitchen door open. Out the dining room window and back to the car. Looks like a stain on my shirt sleeve from the window frame. Have to find a new door knob at Home Depot on the way home.

Guess tonight I'll learn how to install a door knob, but right now, I'm not going to think about it anymore.

Khlem Arboretum had a plant sale early in the spring. Mostly hostas, daylilies and the more common perennials. I managed to pick up a couple things, a Fireworks Solidago, a couple more Virginia Bluebells and a NOID marked Brown Eyed Susan. The BES interested me, it wasn't Goldstrum or Rudbeckia hirta or anything I'd ever grown before. The elderly lady standing beside the plants told me sincerely that I would like it.

Months pass, the BES is healthy and growing but still not blooming. By the edn of July, it's three feet tall, well branched and starting to tip so I have to stake it. Finally it blooms. She's right, I do like it. I really like it.

It must be Rudbeckia triloba, which may be a short lived perennial but more likely an annual or a biennial, depending on which site you use to ID it. It covers itself in little brown-eyed golden flowers with rounded petals. Very charming. It is sometimes called a branched coneflower and according to web sites is later and longer blooming than Goldstrum. Only one reference to it in trade and that is for the cultivar Prairie Glow.

It should have been pinched or cut back in June to create a shorter, fuller plant that didn't need to be staked, but of course I didn't know that in June. According to books and Internet sites it self sows, but nothing self sows in my garden so I can't depend on that. I'll either have to winter sow or repeat the indoor seed starting disaster of 2009. Winter sowing seems my best option since it probably won't bloom that first year anyway.

I'm sure some of you gardeners have grown this plant. Is it indeed biennial? Please let me know if you have experience with it.

But the flower leaned aside

And thought of naught to say,

And morning found the breeze

A hundred miles away.
~ Robert Frost

NOTE: It seems that my little nuisance spam poster is still managing to post comments on my site so I will have to go to plan B and use word verification again.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence," ~ Robert Frost

Another year and I find myself wishing--again-- I'd planted more annuals. I say the very same thing every year but somehow just don't learn from my mistakes. Mid August and most of my perennials are about bloomed out and ready to rest and gather strength before the bitter winter sets in. Annuals have no such schedule programed into their subconscious. They are determined to live life to the fullest. Party like there's no tomorrow;)

I'm dedicating this post to my tithonia, Fiesta del sol, which I'm madly in love with. This is one annual I actually followed through and planted.

In the past I've grown tithonia Torch which is a big, five foot tall plant that always lists and then breaks whenever the wind blows. There simply are not enough stakes to keep Torch upright and its brittle stems in one piece through an Illinois summer.

Fiesta del sol is a much studier plant, two feet tall, compact and dense. Try as they may, summer thunderstorms with 40-mph winds have been unable to break Fiesta or even tip her a little;)

The blooms are two plus inches and a dark, bright orange, almost red. Normally monarch butterflies love tithonia blooms but this year there have been no butterfly visitors. Of course, it's not Fiesta's fault, there just aren't many monarchs in the area this summer.

Next year there will be many more Fiestas planted in my garden. Very, very easy to start from seed. So far no pests on my plants. The leaves are perfect, without a speck of disease and no insect holes.

Went with sister, Vicki, to see the movie Julie and Julia. We both enjoyed it a great deal.

The screenplay was adapted from Julia Child's autobiography, but the idea for the movie came from a blog by Julie Powell. Unhappy with her job and her new home in Queens, Julie P. began to post online about her attempts to cook all 524 recipes from Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julia Child was such a larger than life character (pun intended). It was a pleasure to glimpse her exuberant personality and learn a little about her life. You'll also come away wondering how in the world they made Meryl Streep six foot two inches tall.

A fellow blogger called the movie a chick-flick. Maybe. I'd say it's a foodie flick. The very next day I began my search for a used copy of Julia Child's cookbook. Go see the movie and prepare to be inspired to whip up some French cuisine when you get home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Where idleness is gathered up A magic draught in summer's cup. ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

This is a mish-mash Monday post of things blooming and butterflies enjoying the blooms.

One of the grass skippers celebrating the return of sun and warmth.

Bees only live a few weeks but what a beautiful life, every day spent among flowers.

Liatris burning their lovely candles quickly and leaving a burnt stem. These vertical plants don't take up much space and can be tucked into voids around the garden. I need to remember to pick up another package of bulbs, maybe white this time.

Sea Holly, a pretty name for a plant. It reminds me of tiny blue teasel, but a kinder, gentler teasel.

Old faithful Cleome getting a late start this year. This has to be the easiest and one of the most rewarding annuals.

Hope everyone has a great week. I'll post again Thursday. Meanwhile, I'll be dropping by your blogs to say hi and catch up on what's happening.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A child said: " What is the grass?" fetching it to me with hands full. ~ Walt Whitman

Here's my little bunny tail grass. This is the first time I've grown it. Remarkably easy to start from seed. I'm looking forward to using the cute little tails in fall decorations. So easy to grow in a pot or in the garden. The grass itself isn't especially attractive (it looks a lot like crab grass;) but it blooms early and stays low, less than a foot tall.

Another new plant for me this spring was Agastache Golden Jubilee. I love trying out new plants that are supposed to attract butterflies, bees or birds. So far it has not but these are very small plants and we aren't seeing many butterflies this year.

Golden Jubilee is an attractive plant with the anise scented leaves typical of hyssop. An All American Gold Medal Selections winner in 2003 it scored the highest in length of bloom and ease of growth. According to its press, it will continue to bloom all summer if deadheaded. Leave the last seedheads on for the finches. The leaves are a pretty chartreuse color (photos don't do it justice) which offsets the lavender bloom nicely. Mine are planted in the gravel garden near Walkers Low which may not show off their color to the best effect. Combined with dark or red leaved foliage, this plant would shine.

Very few agastache are completely hardy in my area but gardeners as far north as St. Paul say it is hardy in their gardens and also self seeds. Almost forgot to mention, the leaves are edible in salads (when young).

The bronze fennel is just beginning to bloom. This airy plant with the dark, thready leaves has proved to be a wonderful filler accenting other plants while remaining in the background. It was purchased for the swallowtail butterflies but again, we have had so few butterflies. I hope it is a good reseeder because I'd like much more in my garden next year.

Speaking of swallowtails, I have at least one in my garden and it was remarkable photogenic yesterday. I usually don't have my camera in hand when one lands on a particularly nice bloom but this time I did.

Can you see all the pollen on it's upper wings?

The California Poppies started from seed this spring struggled through our record cold and wet June. In July they perked up and now that the nights are warmer and the rain has subsided they are doing much better. Lovely color, low growing and attractive foliage. These plants would mix well with anything and their ferny leaves won't shade other perennials or annuals.

So far I've only gotten tomatoes from three of my plants. I was so frustrated throughout most of July because, although the fruit was big and green, it refused to ripen. Finally in late July the overnight temperatures got above the 50's and the tomatoes began to redden. As I feared the ones that had hung on the vine for so long were not edible but new ones are coming on strong.

I was excited about German Johnson but so far find the flavor bland. It does produce a lot of fruit for an heirloom, about 14 fruit on it at this time. Warmer conditions might make a difference so I may grow it again.

Celebrity isn't an heirloom and the taste is less than wonderful but it is a big producer. There are probably 20 or more fruit in different stages on this plant today.

I wanted Sweet Million and couldn't find it so I settled for Super Sweet 100. Not bad but not great. It isn't producing as it should so this one won't be coming back next year.

These tomatoes are all growing in large pots. The garden tomatoes are very, very late. I fear some of them may not produce before frost.

One more new plant, Swiss Chard. So far I've been using it in salads and haven't tried cooking it. Crispy, interesting flavor, attractive--this is a keeper that will be coming back next year.

You might enjoy visiting my fellow Rockford gardener Balisha, who wrote me a poem in response to my "Save the tomato hornworm" campaign;) Balisha has a way with words you will enjoy. I don't know if her poem has a name but I think it should be called "THE HORNWORM STOMP".

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Dirty hands, iced tea, garden fragrances

thick in the air and a blanket of color before me, who could ask for more?"
~ Bev Adams, Mountain Gardening

A Cabbage White sunning on the leaf of a pink mallow. A good day to be a butterfly;)

A Tawny Emperor nectars on a purple coneflower.

Kwanso still blooming at the bend of the drive, welcoming visitors with a frothy display of vivid color.

Globe thistle just beginning to show its misty blue color.

An Eastern Comma, displaying the tiny white mark about half way up his hind wing. Nature designed the Commas to look like brown leaves. I wish he would have opened his wings to show the amazing angles and curves. Butterflies tend to be uncooperative. They never believe me when I promise to make them the next Elle Macpherson of butterfly models;)

David just beginning to create his snow capped mountain effect in my garden. Old, faithful David, I wouldn't dream of gardening without him.

August, with its clouds of scented blooms,
August, with its great stacks of giant clouds,
August, with corn plants standing like rows of soldiers,
August, with watermelons, full and heavy, dozing in the sun
~ Mary Naylor

Oriental lily Mona Lisa.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"I have looked out and seen the summer grow." ~ Howard Nemerov

The first week in August and my garden is winding down. The daylilies are almost finished with their dramatic display.

This golden daylily performed exceptionally this season. Fully eight inches across with a wonderfully rich color. One of the first to bloom and still many buds left to guarantee it will be one of the last to finally finish.

Double red, Moses' Fire, began blooming late so it still has buds left to bloom.

This yellow was a free gift from Wilds when I ordered Mose's Fire. A buttery color and a heavy, crinkled texture. It was late to began blooming and still has a weeks worth of buds to spend.

Late season clematis looking down from their bird house crook.

Mrs Wren brings home the bacon. Constant screams of "Feed me" echo from the house.

Mr Wren sits on his shepherds crook and sings. Occasionally he pauses and scolds me for trespassing in his garden. His life seems less strenuous than his wife's.

Stargazers in full bloom. Sweet lily fragrance hanging in the still evening air as I snap photos.

Coneflowers finally doing what nature intended. The first monarch to visit the garden this season.

A small daylily with a lemony, translucent flower and a very long bloom time rivaling the Stellas.

Another Moses' Fire. The reds are unpredictable. Wonderful, fiery color some days but dull and drab others. Today Moses was having a good day.

Sunflowers pop up in unlikely places. Who doesn't smile when passing a sunflower?

This ruinous garden an old woman made
And fertilized with tea leaves and coffee grounds,
Is wild grass mostly, climbed up to the thigh;
The multitude of dandelion surrounds
Enclaves of iris and peony;
While at the wall, the handle of a spade
Is thoroughly fastened in a climbing vine
That has crawled among blue flowers serpentine.
~Howard Nemerov

Hoping you all have a sunny weekend and I"ll be back Monday.