Monday, June 28, 2010

"The Best Plants Come with a Story." ~ Maria Rodale

I have no talent when it comes to design. I couldn't even manage to put together a little basket garden that satisfied me. This is the end result and it still doesn't look the way I envisioned.

The first two plants were easy (the two on the right). After that, I kept bringing home plants that just weren't right. After trying out about 12 plants, I settled for the two on the left but still don't like the look.

All my leftover rejects went into other pots and more were added to create little butterfly gardens.

Pentas, strawflowers, three annual salvias, zinnias, this wonderful tiny phlox, and some silver accents. Even a little wooden hummingbird in case the real thing doesn't show up.

A little song sparrow with a big voice kept me company. I'm not sure if he is nesting somewhere nearby but he is in the garden all the time. It's unusual for song sparrows to spend much time singing when they have chicks to feed. Wish I knew how to add sound to this blog. You would enjoy hearing his song.

Found several hornworm pupae as I planted some cosmos in the garden. This little pupae will one day be a sphinx moth if I haven't damaged his temporary home. They seem to like nicotiana so I grow a little patch for them. Hope to get some photos but they usually fly very late in the evenings, past the time for good photos.

A pile of cats waits inside. Hocus is 18 and Miss B is about three years younger. Neither is interested in helping me garden anymore. Napping is their main activity.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wild flower Wednesday -- a day late

"We shall never achieve harmony with land, any more than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve, but to strive." ~ Leopold, Aldo: Round River

Apologies to Gail at Clay and Limestone for posting Wild Flower Wednesday a day late.

What a good idea to celebrate wild flowers with a special monthly posting.

I got together some recent photos of wildflowers I had taken and realized most of them are not native plants but introduced species. Interesting, but not in a pleasant way.

These plants were all growing in my pasture or along the lane leading to my farm.

Spiderwort, one of a few native flowers I found. What a pretty color of blue. I've seen many improved strains of this plant at garden centers.

Fleabane is also native to this area. Another plant that can be found in garden centers in various colors.

I wish this lovely patch of butterfly milkweed was in my garden. It is growing in the front yard of master gardeners Jey and Pat Flick. No grass in the Flick yard, it is entirely planted in flowers (mostly wild flowers) and vegetables.

In my garden, butterfly weed is the preferred host plant for the Monarch butterfly. Every year the Monarch caterpillars eat the flowers first and then the leaves of this plant.

This velvety mullein plant also grows in the Flicks front yard. A very attractive plant with silver leaves and yellow blooms.

Another native milkweed, I see this common milkweed growing all over the prairies of Illinois and other states. Milkweeds are the only host plant for the Monarch butterflies. The leaves on this particular plant don't look especially healthy.

Yarrow flowers are very attractive to predatory wasps and flies. I have yarrow in several colors in my garden but mine are a gentler, kinder strain that don't spread aggressively like the wild ones do.

Wild parsnips just beginning to open. It's somewhat toxic to livestock and has become a real problem in this area invading pastures and fields. Many people are sensitive to the psoralen contained in the leaves and stems of this plant and have reactions almost like burns. I believe this is related to the carrot family and the root is edible.

Queen Ann's Lace is a common plant found all over my area and another carrot relative. This one is just opening. Very lovely but an aggressive spreader with a serious tap root.

The lovely elderberries are almost finished blooming. Every year, early in the autumn, the church just down the way from my farm has an annual dinner topped off by elderberry pie. The recipe probably goes back many, many years. Elderberries seem to have fallen out of favor with modern cooks.

Squirrel tail grass, cute but farmers hate it. Those feathery looking plumes contain awns that inflame the mouths of horses and other livestock and cause ulcerations. I've actually seen seeds available for sale.

An improved variety of the native purple coneflower that once covered our prairies.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gardening is something you learn by doing — and by making
mistakes.... Like cooking, gardening is a constant process of
experimentation, repeating the successes and
throwing out the failures.
- Carol Stocker

The bridge of my nose is sunburned and I’m peppered with mosquito bites but my lawn is mowed, three containers are planted with annuals, and most of the weeding is finished. I guess that’s a fair trade off.

In June there is such an abundance of blooms. There doesn’t seem to be any way to include all of them on my blog. Here are some favorites.

The daylilies have begun blooming.

Siloam Double Classic is my favorite today. I love the pale apricot color and the vivid yellow center that looks like it is lit from within.

Prairie Fire is a pretty red but the bright color streaks. It seems to be a common trait in the dark colors.

Clear yellow Hyperion, the old faithful standby.

Oriental lily Mona Lisa.

Here are a few of the shrub roses I didn’t include in previous posts.


Autumn Sunset, a sport of Westerland.

Hybrid Tea Double Delight

Meideland Magic

Hybrid Tea Tiffany

On the ground wrens run through the garden like mice. This spring they are nesting in three of my birdhouses. The parents are in constant motion, frantically searching the garden to provide enough bugs to keep the growing chicks satisfied.

I found the first Japanese beetle Friday afternoon. So far there are just a few but by the first week in July there will be hundreds. I’m enjoying my roses now. When the beetles begin to destroy the blooms I will deadhead all the bushes and prevent them from blooming for the rest of the season. Sad but there is just no other way to battle these beetles.

The blackberries and strawberries are ripe. I think I’ll have a bowl of icecream with blackberries while sit on the porch and watch the last cardinal visit the feeder and the lightening bugs begin to flash one by one.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

“I eat like a vulture. Unfortunately the resemblance doesn't end there.” ~ Groucho Marx

I spent a rather Edgar Allan Poe-esque Saturday gardening with a vulture. Even for a lover of birds, gardening while a turkey vulture sits above and watches you is a little creepy. As he sat on my barn roof looking at me, lines from Poe's poem 'The Raven' kept running thru my head.

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! - Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore...

Apart from the ugly head--which does look like a turkey's, I think they're very handsome birds. Their wingspan is six feet or more. I often see them gliding over the house and fields and they look magnificent. I believe they nest nearby, probably in an outbuilding or barn loft.

(Apologies for the extremely poor photo quality.)

After eating, vultures rest in the sun. My new friend must have just dined because he sat there on the barn roof, shaking his head. This is to rid his face of pieces of his lunch which contain bacteria. The sun's heat helps kill the bacteria. I could hear a large flock (or do they call it a murder?) of crows in the field so there must have been a dead animal there and the smaller crows were finishing what the vultures had left.

Things I learned about vultures: Vultures are not buzzards. Buzzards are European birds related to the hawk family. Vultures are new world birds related to storks and ibises. They don't kill their food, they eat only dead things they find with their excellent sense of smell. They cannot carry their food away and must eat it where ever it was found. In addition to meat, they will eat pumpkins and other vegetables.

Turkey vultures are masters of the air. They can glide for six hours without ever flapping their wings. They venture out as the day warms, quickly finding pockets of rising warm air, or thermals. Once they find a thermal they are uplifted and circle finding other rising warm air currents to sweep them across the skies at speeds of up to 60 mph. What a truly great engineering accomplishment this bird is. Nature never makes mistakes.

Later in the day a small blackbird, probably a redwing came and attempted to drive the vulture off. I think the vulture was willing to make an exception and eat this live pest but the blackbird was too quick. When the vulture finally flew away, I could see the blackbird pecking at his back and head.

From vultures to roses. Bloggers don't have to follow the 'rules' other writers are bound by. We can veer off course and combine any number of odd things in one post.

My English roses are blooming now. These are elegant roses having the look and often the scent of the old heirloom roses. The advantage of these modern Austin English varieties is that they bloom all season and not just once in the spring.

Abraham Darby

Charles Austin

Pat Austin always looking downward.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gardeners are - let's face it - control freaks. Who else would
willingly spend his leisure hours wresting weeds out of the ground,
blithely making life or death decisions about living beings, moving
earth from here to there, changing the course of waterways? The
more one thinks about it, the odder it seems; this compulsion to
remake a little corner of the planet according to some plan or vision.
~ Abby Adams

There is so much to be done in the garden and never enough time. Oriental lilies need staking , sedum must be cut back, more mulch needs to be spread after I top dress with alfalfa. The edging is looking ragged, bearded iris need to be dug and thinned, the trees all need cutting back, and on and on. I doubt I’ll ever get to it all.

Sunday afternoon I stopped worrying about chores and just enjoyed the garden. The roses are blooming. I overlooked the chewed leaves. My roses are never sprayed and they do surprisingly well. They may get some holes in their leaves and a little blackspot, still it seems better than a residue of poison left from spraying for inperfections. The poor gallicas got moved every year for four years and always had mildew. The unsightly white powder bothered me more than it effected the roses. This spring the gallicas did not get dug up and transplanted and they have no mildew.

(Gallica rose Surpasse Tout)

The annuals got planted late this spring and haven’t filled out much--disappointing. On the other hand some plants are performing much better than hoped for. The Jupiter’s beard has been blooming for two months, what a great little plant. The dicentra still have pretty hearts dangling from their stems and phlox pilosa is still covered in pink blooms. Geranium Rozanne is decked in pretty blue flowers. If she does as well as she did last year, she will bloom non stop through September.

I think my Griffith Buck roses deserve a tribute. These are some of my favorites and almost as easy and carefree as Knockout roses. Dr. Buck devoted his life to breeding beautiful roses that were both hardy and healthy.

The pale apricot Golden Unicorn.

Country Dancer with big bunches of blowsy pink blooms.

Different Drummer, the prima donna of the group but with lovely blooms.

One more photo. Sweet William--loved by butterflies. I enjoy the spicy, clove like fragrance. Sweet William seems to bloom for quite a long period and is never bothered by pests or disease.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The peonies have just finished blooming

There are a handful of flowers I look forward to every year, lilacs are one, peonies another. Both have delicious fragrance as well as beauty, but both have very short bloom periods.

Three years ago I found Shirley Temple as a tiny root at one of the box stores. The photo above shows how she has flourished in my newest lasagna garden.

I've never had six foot tall foxgloves. This year they are huge, leaning this way and that and finally falling over. Note to self: foxgloves do better in leaner soil.

The peony below is Festiva Maxima, quite an old bush that gets too much shade. Hopefully this fall I will have time to move her to a better spot.

The photo below is an unknown red.

A subtle, heartening fragrance
Comes piercing the warm hush,
And from the greening woodland
I hear the first wild thrush.
They move my heart to pity
For all the vanished years,
With ecstasy of longing
And tenderness of tears.
~ William Bliss Carman

Monday, June 7, 2010

A reminder of how dependent we have become on modern technology. Sunday a squall roared thru the area driven by wind gusts of almost 60 mph. The power went out and stayed out all afternoon. No water, no lights or electricity, couldn’t read, couldn’t watch TV, couldn’t even clean house. About 8 pm , when the ComEd truck finally drove up and a little Howie Mandel-looking guy jumped out, I almost ran out and hugged him.

This morning a reminder of a different kind. This time it involved my border collie who had a close encounter with the call of the wild. I let her outdoors at 5 am and as usual, she made her rounds investigating the scents of animals passing thru her yard over night. About ten minutes later I heard her bark. I walked outside expecting to see some raccoon in a huff waddle across the lawn, instead a coyote jumped out from under a spruce and made a run at Aggie. I jumped off the porch and poof, the coyote disappeared like smoke. Aggie wasn’t upset, nor was she injured but I was upset and still am. This is the first time in 21 years a coyote has ever threatened one of my pets. I know they do attack pets in other areas but seldom do they attack female dogs or dogs as large as a border collie.

Note from Blogger: Monday, June 07, 2010

We're aware of isolated access issues in certain regions within the US. We're investigating this now and will follow-up as soon as we have more information to share. Thanks for your patience in the meantime.

Apparently I am in ‘certain regions within the US ’ because I couldn't post a comment on any blogs nor publish my own blog on today. My week is not off to a good start! Hope the entire week won’t be like this:)

Today’s photos are of oriental poppy, Allegro. I haven’t had an oriental poppy for years but have been admiring the ones I see on blogs. I found Allegro, red with a black center, locally last June and decided to add it to my garden.

This spring the foliage put an a pretty amazing growth spurt and suddenly I have super-poppy eating up a three foot by three foot hunk of garden real estate. The second shock comes when Allegro blooms in bright orange instead of red. Orange isn’t my favorite color, not even close.