Thursday, September 30, 2010

Laziness Pays Offf

I have several Gaura (I think the common name is Whirling Butterflies) that I enjoy all summer long.  They reseeded lightly in the garden, including quite a few in the Hell Strip.  The Hell Strip is a bit too narrow to support the Gaura and I decided to try and move them.  Since they reseeded many of these were close to other plants I wanted to keep so I knew I'd be challenged to get a big enough root ball but I tried.

Sure enough almost immediately after i transplanted them the top growth died off on all of them.


I was lazy and left them alone.

I decided to leave them where they were so any seeds would drop into the area I wanted new plants.

Good thing I was lazy patient.  In the garden this week is new green shoots popping up from the roots. 

I just hope they survive the New England Winter.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Miscellaneous Monday

It's hard to believe we just finished the last weekend in September.  I had a busy one.  


On Saturday The Husband and I went and visited the Clueless Gardeners.  Clueless - hah! - I don't think so.  I forgot to take my camera so if you want to see pictures of their gardens you'll have to visit their blog.  They have a nice piece of property on the edge of a wet woodland and are big on the natives.  I like natives but I don't use them quite so extensively.  

Michelle kindly passed along some native grasses.  I got some Big Bluestem (Andropogon) and some Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus).  These blogalong plants will add to my native grass collection which contains mostly Panicum varieties.  It was fun trying to communicate about the plants since I tend to know the scientific name (typical since I'm overeducated) and she knows the common names.

Michelle, I'll harvest those Asclepias seeds this week and drop them in the mail to you.


This is the time of year when the local garden centers all have massive sales.  They try to get rid of the stock so they don't have to keep it alive over the winter or pot it up into larger pots.  There are lots of pot bound shrubs half off.  It's taking a chance but if you're willing to take that chance you can get quite a deal.  I picked up some nice Pieris, a male holly and a $5 gallon sized Amsonia.   No pictures since by the time I got them into the ground it was very overcast and sprinkling.

I find that the "mud method" of planting really seems to increase success with pot bound plants.  What is the mud method you ask?  Let me put on my professor hat (a mortarboard, of course) and tell you.  

First you pull the plant out of it's pot and put it in a bucket or bin that will hold water.  Add water.  Let it sit while digging the hole.  This not only lets the plant take up a lot of water into the roots, making them less vulnerable to damage but it also loosens the soil around the roots.  Then you need to get your hands in there and work the roots free of the soil as best you can.  If you can get all the soil off ,great.  I usually manage to get about half off.  There should be at least some roots that are completely free of soil.  Then into the hole it goes.  But don't add back the soil just yet.  Fill the hole with water and let it drain.  Then I add soil to about the half way mark and fill the hole with water again.  You see why this is called the mud method?  When you've filled the hole in completely water well and you've created a very wet area of soil for the plant to get started in.

Of course then you are covered in mud so if you don't like getting dirty this method won't work so well.  

[If you don't like getting dirty what are you doing gardening?]



I found two of these caterpillars on my Ninebark this weekend.  They are caterpillars of a Sphinx moth; I'm not sure which one.  They are generally day active moths that hover at flowers, feeding on nectar.  They can be mistaken for hummingbirds at first glance (The Sphinx moths include the Hummingbird moth.).  I narrowed it down to three possibilities but they weren't on a host plant that was mentioned in my book so I'm really not sure which one they are.  There are a surprising number of these caterpillars.  

Fortunately they are NOT the tomato hornworm so I was able to let them be even though they are near the vegetable garden.

Whew.  I'm tired just typing about all I did this weekend!  And now I have to get to work.  Work just interferes so much with gardening!  Do you think my students would mind if I potted up my Ficus instead of grading their quiz?  They would?  Darn it!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I'll just pop into the garden center since I'm out this way...

I have several Local Garden Centers that I visit regularly.  I haven't been going regularly lately since the theory is that fall is not a good planting time in New England.  I understand the logic, winters can be harsh.  But the weather is nice and I WANT to get my hands dirty!  So today when I found myself out near one of the garden centers that is further away I decided to pop in and see if they had any Solidago (goldenrod).  It was only 15 minutes further away...

Solidago is one of those plants that look great en mass for a short period of time.  I'm kind of wishy-washy about them.  But they are fantastic for pollinators and I'm kind of in between plants right now.  My Agastache is fading and my Aromatic Aster hasn't really started to bloom yet.  So I need something for the pollinators.  {side note:  the pink Agastache in this week's GBBD posting is called Heat Wave and I got it from Bluestone Perennials}

Sure enough they had about six plants, all of the same strain, set out on display.  I snagged two of them (large pots, I hope to divide them into more plants) and, oh, look at those peppers.  And those.  I bet I could make a nice fall container planting if I mixed the purple ones with the colorful ones...

Into the cart they went.

And how can I visit the LGC without going into the greenhouses.  This is one of the few local places that carries a wide selection of indoor plants.  I saw several sources of temptation and then... is that what I think it is?  Tucked back out of the way?  It is!  It's...

A variegated ficus!  I've been lusting after these since I saw one in an office last winter.  I had found a small one at the grocery store but it didn't do well (you can bring some plants back from the edge of death but others are just too far gone).  This one is large, healthy looking and reasonably priced.  Mine!  Now I just need a nice pot for it.  And a place for it to live.  Honey, we're rearranging the furniture again!

So that errand I was originally on?  Yeah, I never got to it.  I got distracted by plants.
Hi, my name is Diana and I'm an addict. 

But I'm a happy addict!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

It's hard to believe that we're half way through September already.  So much I wanted to get done in the garden is still undone!  Better to have too much to do than to be bored.  I guess.  I wouldn't know.

So here is a hint of what is blooming in my garden today.

A few blooms on my Rosemary.  I'll bring one pot into the house for the winter and one will go in the garage.  I'll have fresh Rosemary for Thanksgiving!

My Garlic Chives are fading.  This is a nice little plant.  I'm looking forward to it reseeding into the garden.  I could use more.

The Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed) is long done but I like the way the seed pods look.

You know the end is near when the Aster 'October Skies' starts blooms.  So far only three blooms but an insane number of buds.

I planted this sweet autumn Clematis this year to cover the side of the deck.  It's gotten a good start!

Rudbeckia Row still has quite a number of blooms - Cappucchino, Prairie Sun, Eclipse are all still blooming.  I have some "filler" marigolds in the area as well and they are blooming up a storm!

Annuals always bloom up a storm.  This is the corner where the snow plow piles the snow during the winter.  Sometimes they miss the edge of the pavement and tear up the soil so I have reserved this area for annuals that can be torn up without tearing up my heart.  

The Agastache are mostly fading but they each have a slightly different bloom period so as the early bloomers are starting to look ragged the late blooms are coming into their own.

And lastly, another sign of summers end. This is Pineapple Sage.  See the bud?  This is one of the last plants to bloom in my yard.  I really enjoy Pineapple Sage but I hate to see it bloom since that means an end to the Outdoor Gardening Season.  

Not shown:  So much!  I still have lots of blooms on Mountain Mint, Scabiosa, Gaura, Buddleia, Ratibida, and Rose Don Juan is putting on a good second bloom.  Summer may be winding down but it's going to go out with a bang!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Mammals

OK, so I didn't get the garden post (on mulch!) finished yet.  How far along am I?  Well, I've picked a topic.  Yes, that's all - no need for sarcasm!  I am a fly by the seat of the pants blogger.  You want pre-planning, rewrites and dedication go somewhere else.  This blog is just for kicks.

We had some friends come in to the Boston area this weekend.  The guy (he's not a man - I've known him since high school, man sounds so, so, grown up!) is a big fan of whales so we went on a whale watching trip out of Gloucester.  The seas were a bit, um, challenging.  The ride out felt more like a roller coaster than a boat.  But it was worth it!  I got not one, not two but THREE new species of mammals (first time I've seen the species).  That's quite a feat for me.  I haven't gotten that kind of a New Mammal count since I went to Africa.

On the ride out we spotted a pod of Atlantic White Sided Dolphins (Lagenorhynchus arcutus).  These are a northern species of dolphin and this pod had several babies along side.

Dolphins are hard to photograph - I dare you to do better (in four foot seas!).

That's better.

That was new mammal species number one.

We did slow for one Humpback on the ride out.  But humpback whales are common off the coast of Massachusetts in the summer so we didn't stay long.  I think the crew had a clue there was something really interesting out there.

Trident, the humpback whale, one of only three humpbacks seen on this trip.
 The under tail markings help the crew to identify the individual humpbacks.

Then there were the Sei whales (Balaenoptera borealis).  These are 64 foot long whales, not commonly found by whale watching groups.  I got good looks but not good pictures.  Did I mention the rough seas?

Notice the different style of exhale (blow)

That was new mammal species number three.

What?  I skipped one?  That's because I wanted to save the best, the rarest, for last.

New Mammal Species Number Two

The North Atlantic Right Whale (Eubalaena glacialis).


Notice the unmarked underside of the tail and the smooth edges.  Those help to identify this species but not the individual.  NA Right Whales are highly protected and in US waters whale watching boats are not allowed to knowingly approach these whales.  I think our crew knew they were in the area, though.  They also knew about the Sei whales which aren't nearly so endangered but are not that commonly seen by local whale watching boats.

NA Right whales were nearly hunted to extinction (they were the "right" whales to hunt) and now number around 400 world wide.  We saw four of them.  How often do you get to see 1% of the population of a species and how sad is it to see 1% of the populations of a species.

On the ride back we spotted Trident again and she played with us - she kept diving under the boat causing the whale watchers to dart from one side of the boat to the other.

I got some very, very close up shots.  That's her blow hole.  Too close in for my camera lens to focus.

OK.  I really do have some ideas for future blog posts that have to do with gardening.  Really, I do.  Unless I find something else really cool to blog about first.  I haven't seen the neighborhood Fisher yet....

Boston from near Gloucester Harbor.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

New Garden

I'm been working on a New Garden recently.  It's not your typical garden.  First off it's a water garden.  Yes, I know, lots of gardeners have those.  OK.  Here's the next kicker.  It's indoors.  120 gallons of fantastic indoor water garden (the tank is 4 foot by 2 foot by 2 foot).

Yes, I confess, I consider my planted aquariums to be indoor water gardens.  I grow live plants, don't I?

Setting up a planted aquarium has some similarities to building a raised bed.  You need to prepare the bed (in this case I refinished the aquarium stand) and pick out what kind of soil you want in the bed.  In the aquarium this is called substrate and, no, standard aquarium gravel won't do.

So I bought six 20-pound bags.  Two different types of substrate.  One the "soil" and the other the "compost."  The bags came pre-seeded with bacteria.  Bacteria are as necessary in the aquarium as they are in the garden soil.

Then I picked out some boulders.  These rocks have to be carefully chosen and carefully cleaned.  Some types of rock can give off substances that harm fish.  And you don't want garden soil in the aquarium.

The good news is that these boulders didn't cost me much money.  Not like going to the rock yard and spending hundreds of dollars for one for the outside garden.  Scale matters.

The hard part was lowering the biggest rock - a good 20 pound rock! - down 24 inches to the gravel while bent over the tank and standing on a step stool.  

Then comes the fun part.  Picking out plants.  Just like in the outside garden you have to landscape the aquarium.  The choices in plant material are not as varied and the information about them is harder to find. You have to consider light levels (artificially supplied), pH (you know, just like you get when you get your soil tested.  You don't get your soil tested?  Come close, let me whisper in your ear - I don't either!),  and water hardness.

Then you get to pick out the animals in the aquarium garden.  I'm moving some of my fish from my existing tank.  These fish will help the aquarium get established.  Eventually I'll move my angelfish over and do something different in the old tank.  

So the really fun part?  Catching fish in a well planted tank.  Here's my existing tank.  

The first fish was easy to catch. The second one, not too bad.  The third - I have fish in there?  I'll take my time and catch a few now, a few later, a few tomorrow.

Tomorrow, though.  Outside gardening!  Only a few more weeks to enjoy working in the outside garden.  I'll have all winter to work on the indoor gardens.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Off Topic - Cricket the Cat

This is not a post on Gardening or wildlife.  It's about one of my cats.  I'm putting this up for Friends and Family.  So feel free to skip down to a previous post to look at pictures of plants.

Two weeks ago I took Cricket to the vet.  She wasn't eating well and looked, well, bloated.  The vet found she had some digestive issues, treated her and she went back to eating.  Last weekend she again began leaving most of her food in her bowl at feeding times.  So I took her back to the vet.  I thought I might be overreacting.  Nope.

The vet asked to do an x-ray.  It showed abnormalities in the kidneys and the bladder looked wrong.  So she did blood work and a urinalysis.  Cricket was in a diabetic crisis.  This is very unusual since she's a small female (large males are at the highest risk but even they get diabetes at a rate of 1 in 400), the sudden presentation of symptoms is unusual, and that I noticed the problem so early in the crisis.  

She had to go home with the vet that night.  The vet worked hard to get her stabilized.  Her blood values were all wonky (that's an official medical term - wonky).  

I spent the next morning beating myself up for not noticing earlier, or not taking her to the vet sooner.

We were finally able to pick her up at 4 pm.  The vet then praised my powers of observation and said that the fact that I noticed and brought her in saved Cricket's life.  Apparently this type of diabetes onset is not usually caught so early and many cats don't survive the initial crisis.

So now Cricket is home.  She's on a special diet and We (that would be the Royal We meaning I) have to give her an insulin injection once a day.  She'll go back to the vet to be rechecked this week and frequently after that but her prognosis is now good.  

It's been a scary week for us.  We almost lost one of our family.  The best sound in the world was when I came downstairs and she started asking for breakfast.

Friday, September 3, 2010


My garden is full of promises right now. 

Promises of blooms next month.

See how big my Aster 'October Skies' has gotten?  It's nearly 6 feet tall!

Here's my Autumn Clematis - I planted this earlier this year.  I'm expecting that this will eventually cover the side of the deck.

Promises of blooms next spring.

The buds on two types of Pieris.

Promises of blooms winter color and winter bird food.

My hollies have red berries, green (unripe) berries and blooms!

And promises of more, still needed, rain.  

Those clouds are from Earl.  We might get a sprinkling or we might get soaked.  I'm hoping for a soaking!