Friday, May 30, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday - a few days late...

I just discovered the Wildflower Wednesday meme by Clay and Limestone. Actually I just found her blog and I'm already interested - anyone who's a friend pollinators is a friend of mine! Come, join me on my anti-pesticide soap box!

Currently there aren't a lot of natives blooming in my garden. What I do have is Aquiligia canadensis.

Gorgeous, early blooming flowers, pretty foliage, gently self-seeding in the garden (I always have a few volunteers but not large numbers of them like I do with some other plants).

I time putting out my hummingbird feeder by the blooms of these native wildflowers. The first hummingbird of the year usually shows up the same week as the first bloom of the Aquiligia. I've heard that hummers (specifically the Ruby-throated hummingbirds on the East Coast) follow these wildlflowers north in the spring - as the bloom season progresses the hummers move with it.

Not much else seems to pay attention to these plants except for Leaf Miners. 

Every year I have a few leaf miners on my Aquiligia. They aren't supposed to like the native variety as much as cultivated versions but they'll eat both in my garden. Fortunately the leaf miners do limited damage and my Aquiligia always bounce back. If I wanted to do pest management I could always pick the infected leaves and toss them. Since they don't bother the plant I save my time and energy for other things. 

I wasn't able to find much information about leaf miners - they are a fly that lays eggs inside the leaves of host plants but what else they do in the wild I don't know. Are they a good pollinator as adults? Are they food for something important? I'm afraid my Google-foo failed me on this topic.

Aqueligia canadensis my May Wildflower of the Month.

Thursday, May 29, 2014


My response to unexpected seedlings in the garden is a three step process.

Step 1: Identify the plant

Step 2: Decide if it would work there or not

Step 3: If it wouldn't work pull it out, if it might work, leave it alone and see what happens

When I leave things alone I sometimes get...

An Aquilegia hybrid that doesn't look like any of the other columbines in my garden but is a very pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Plant of the week - a Love/Hate relationship

My plant of the week for this week is...

Centaurea montana 'Amethyst in Snow.'

I LOVE the way this plant looks right now. I LOVE the way it attracts pollinators, like native bees. 

I don't mind that it attracts ants (ants are good for loosening up the soil).

I tolerate that it's an aggressive spreader (that's ONE plant in the picture).

I HATE that it will look like crap after it's done blooming. It gets infected with a fungus (can you say powdery mildew?) EVERY. FREAKING. YEAR.

I LOVE that I just have to cut it back to the ground and it recovers from the powdery mildew and comes back strong, blooming to beat the band the following spring. That's a good thing for the plant, too. If I have to treat a plant for a disease I'd rather pull it out and replace it with something else. 

No chemicals that kill things for my garden, thank you. I have yet to find a plant that's worth poisoning my local ecosystem (and myself and my family). 

Besides, a fungicide that kills powdery mildew will also affect the mycorrhizae in the soil [don't know what mycorrhizae are? They're soil fungi that are beneficial [and sometimes required] for plant health].

AND I'll stop now, before I get back on my we-all-live-in-the-same-environment soap box.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Veggie Garden Update

Memorial Day weekend is the traditional time for gardeners in my area to put in tomato plants. Traditionally Memorial Day has been about the time of average date of last frost. 

Global Climate Change is making a mockery of tradition. If you average data for the past 20 years the average date of last frost has been around May 10. In the five years I've lived here we haven't had a significant frost in the month of May.

Since I didn't know the tradition of waiting till Memorial Day when I moved here I looked up the average date of last frost and used that as a guide. And because, when it comes to spring planting, I have the patience of a Jack Russel Terrier puppy I usually plant a bit early.

Memorial Day weekend and MY tomatoes are blooming. Yum. How long after pollination till we get fruit? Good thing I plant a lot of other things to attract pollinators so I should have a high pollination rate, and lots of tomatoes.

LOTS of tomatoes.

Do you think The Husband and I can eat everything produced on ALL NINE of these plants? Don't worry. I have plans for freezing enough to get us through the next long New England winter.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Pot Party

The path that leads to my front door has an area where very little likes to grow because it's full of roots from a large shade tree (planted by the city in the "hell strip" - it's roots have seriously damaged the sidewalk). I've been looking for pots for this area for a couple of years now. I've had a hard time finding anything I like that hasn't been several hundred dollars a pop.

I thought about putting in stock watering trough planters but I don't think my neighbors' would like that (conservative New Englanders, they think my house color is too bold. I'm a Florida born flamboyant type - my cry is usually more color, please!).

This year I was at the Big Box Home Improvement Store (whose color scheme is predominately blue) and spotted these.

Massive, good looking and less that $30 each.

Just what I needed. I added cheap $12 ferns and those gorgeous, riotous New Guinea Inpatients and Voila! A nice statement that leads people right to my front door.

Unless they trip over the root damaged sidewalk first.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Fern Day

The woods behind my house has a lot of ferns. Some of whom have migrated into my yard.

They usually end up next to the foundation for some reason. Should I be worried that my foundation area stays damp enough for the spores to grow?

Ferns are an ancient group of plants, descended from the earliest vascular plants (that's right, they have tubes that carry nutrients and water up and down the plant). They first show up in the fossil record 360 million years ago!

What I find most amazing about ferns is that some of them have insane numbers of chromosomes - in one case more than 1200! (we have 46). Can you imagine trying to get those all organized for cell division. No? Oh, you don't care? Well, have another fern picture.

[If you are a science geek and want more information check out this video on Why Ferns Have More Chromosomes. I only heard one not-quite-accurate statement, it's very easy to understand, plus he uses the term "hot mess" which always makes me hungry for a fresh out of the oven pineapple upside down cake (which is MY idea of a "hot mess." Yum.)]

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Decisions, decisions

My neighbor stores his boat just over the fence in his backyard for the winter. I live in New England. The non-boating season is LLLOOONNNNGGGG. As you can see, despite it being nearly Memorial Day the boat is still there.

It could be worse. It could be a rusted out old heap of a car... But I'd still rather not have it as the focal point of my backyard view.

To the left I have a very nice Physocarpus (Ninebark, Diablo) and to the right I have a large clump of Forsythia and during late summer I have a gorgeous Buddleia (Evil Ways) but there is a gap in my hedgerow and I've been trying to decide what to do.

Perhaps a nice, large Hydrangea paniculata or Hydrangea quercifolia would improve the spring view. 

Then again I have a male holly (Blue Prince) that I need to relocate that would fit nicely and block the view in a few years. The problem with that? Well.... Right now it's covered in native pollinators (read: bees) and it would be awfully close to the boat and my neighbor likes to spend lots of time "working" on his boat.... If he was friendly I could talk to him about it. He's not. He's... aloof [what a nice way to say that, huh?].

Decisions, decision....

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Quick Trip to the Garden Center

I needed some potting soil and the closest place that has nice potting soil is also a garden center (my local hardware store only carries the dreaded MG brand).

So I made a quick trip.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday Morning Walter Update

It turns out that snails are THE MOST BORING pet ever. Here's a very good picture of Walter.

Usually he's buried in the leaf litter I put in his cage so the only evidence I have that he's still alive is that he's eaten his daily lettuce.

So, to liven things up, I decided that having to keep him in an enclosure was a great excuse to have a modern take on a Victorian House Plant Glass Case thingy (that's the technical term, I'm not up on Victoriana).

Ta-da! Now I have a place to grow some high humidity plants that normally wouldn't survive in my house.

[The Spathophyllum in the back is for when I forget to feed Walter - he's nibbled on its leaves.]

And, no, I haven't notice any smell. Maybe it's because he's in a large container with a screen top so the enclosure gets to air out a bit. Maybe it's because the smell of my blooming Hoya drowns out everything else.

I just really hope he doesn't lay any eggs!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Foliage Follow Up May 2014

It's still spring here on The Edge. Leaves are still unfurling and a few plants have yet to poke their heads above the soil [I'm looking at YOU, Asclepias].

This is a new Agastache [Bolero]. Most of my Agastaches just have a few leaves up so far.

Baptisia australis is a wonderful plant but it gets big and floppy. I think I have a few more days to get the supports in before it gets too big - it's growing like a, well, native wildflower. 

Fern, unk sp [unknown species]. This is a volunteer that started to grow along my foundation. The woods behind my house contain quite a few different species of fern so I suspect that's where this one came from. The new growth doesn't form traditional fiddleheads but I like it!

Heuchera Midnight Rose. I have quite a few different Heucheras  around the garden but it got too dark last night before I could finish taking pictures.

Epimedium lostus tagus. The Husband likes Epimedium but I think it's because of their common name.
You know the one.
Horny Goat Weed.

Physocarpus Diablo - one of my favorite shrubs! Gorgeous color all summer, it provides an excellent backdrop to my Butterfly Bush, Buddleia Evil Ways [they SOUND like they go together, don't they? Evil Ways has bright yellow-green leaves and I love, love, love the high contrast in leaf color between these two. No photos of Evil Ways - it's just starting to leaf out.]

Penstemon Husker Red. A nice little plant in my yard, the bane of my persnickety neighbor's lawn.
I'm not going to fret about that, though, it's revenge for him parking his boat where we get to look at it every time we're in the backyard from Labor Day to Memorial Day every year.

Spirea Magic Carpet. We moved it last year and it's not that happy. I hope it bounces back. I expect it will, Spirea are tough little plants.

Thanks to Pam at Digging for this meme.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day May 2014

I know it's late in the day but here it is!

 Aqueligia Little Lanterns - great little plant that spreads gently

 Nepeta Walker's Low

 Fothergilla gardenii Blue Mist, nice plant that actually stayed as small as predicted

Ilex one of the "blue" series [this one is female], not an exciting bloom to me but boy, oh, boy are the native bees happy when it blooms!

Bleeding Heart, inherited from previous homeowner, now a clump of over 3 feet wide and high 

Iris Devil Baby 

Iris one of the "Jazzy" series 

Iris forgotus varietus 

Iris Flower Child [I think] 

All irises pictured are from Rainbow Iris Farm. They don't bloom long but they are spectacular right now!

Scabiosa Butterfly Blue - one of my absolute FAV plants. Will bloom from now until a killing frost in the fall. I find they do great for 3 or 4 years and then start to fade and die.

Viburnum Burkwood - the first of my Viburnum to start blooming

Wild Violets reddish purple - I don't mind these spreading through the garden. They're cheerful, they crowd out more aggressive weeds and the rabbits like to eat them so they nibble these first and leave my other plants alone. And when it's time to remove them? They come out pretty easy.

Wild Violets Blue Purple. Ditto.

Pieris that the previous homeowner planted in the wrong place and The Husband and I successfully moved, even though it was over 4 foot high [whew! what a long name, huh?]

And friend.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for this meme.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Veggie garden - the beginning

For the past couple of years I've worked with neighbors on a community garden. The neighbors that owned the bed moved and while the new neighbors are nice it disrupted the communal feeling we had going. This year, I'm going it on my own. 

I don't have a lot of full-sun locations and I want something close to a door so I decided to put in a bed next to my driveway. I bought corner connectors and cedar planks, measured out a location and waited until this weekend to put it in. I wanted to move some existing plants so I had to wait until they were up but the tomato plants I ordered arrived on Friday so it needed to be done soon!

And here it is! Just big enough for a few tomato plants and some basil. I have access to some great local farm stands so I don't need to do a lot but we will use as many tomatoes as I can grow and this way I should have enough for freezing, too!

We put it in place, added soil, put in the chives and the garlic chives that had already been in that spot and our first basil of the year (it's probably too early but it's worth trying one plant, right?).

Only one small problem.

I didn't plan to do this when I planted these tulips last fall. Looks like the bed won't be completely finished until after these tulips bloom! Then I'll have to decide if I should try to move the bulbs or just compost them. In my experience I can get a couple of years of bloom out of these types of hybrids but then they quit blooming. I think I could get them going again with a big dose of fertilizer but most of my plants don't require large amounts of fertilizer and I don't want to burn the perennials. Major problem, right?

If only all my problems were so small!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Watch Out!

Spring has finally started to creep into New England. The weather is warmer, the trees are showing signs of green and bushes and bulbs are starting to bloom.  Better watch out - I'm a Distracted Driver!

Oooohhh, are those leaves? [hint: no, they're pollen filled allergy producers. And an over-polarized sky.]

Look - the forsythia is FINALLY blooming. I always thing of this as a February plant and it never blooms that early.

I love grape hyacinths when they are planted in large numbers. They are a great drive-by plant.

So if you see me on the road - look out cause I'll be ogling the signs of spring.