Friday, June 27, 2014

Favorite plant in the garden this week - Campanula Pink Octopus

My favorite plant this week is Campanula Pink Octopus (Bellflower).

Of course it is. Not only is Pink Octopus the best of the Bellflowers, but this week is cephalopod week! A week to celebrate all things cephalopod.

What are cephalopods? Cuttlefish, Nautilus, Squid and... OCTOPUS!

Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Nick Hobgood - a tool using octopus (it carries those shells around and uses them as shelter in case of predators)

[What? you didn't know I was a total biology geek?]

I bought Pink Octopus because I wanted a low growing, spreading plant for the corner of my yard. You can see it filled in nicely between the Buddleia and the Gaura. It spread a bit more aggressively than I would like...

So can I recommend this plant? Maybe. It's cute, low growing, but aggressive and, unlike most of my plant choices, doesn't seem attractive to pollinators. Still, I like it. And what other plant works for cephalopod week?

thanks to Danger Garden for this meme

Monday, June 16, 2014

Foliage Follow Up June 2014

June is a big month for flowers here at The Edge but the observant eye finds that the foliage is spectacular as well. Of course in my garden the foliage that is most obvious is strongly colored. There can be great texture in the garden, too, but it's much more subtle. And if there's one thing I'm not it's subtle.

Hostas are a reliable foliage plant as long as you don't have a deer problem. We have over 100 acres of woods near our house but we also have plenty of coyotes that are keeping the deer population in check. Plus these are safely inside our fence where our dogs would deal with any deer that got in - one would bark incessantly but our former street dog might try and catch them for dinner.

Another reliable group of foliage plants are the Heucheras. Breeders have been doing some amazing things with this genus - this one is called Galaxy.

Penstemon Husker Red is a nice plant that does re-seed in the garden. This particular individual is growing in a crack in the driveway.

To contrast the dark foliage I tend to choose I have a few plants with silver foliage like this Santolina [lavender cotton]

But really, I do like dark foliage, especially when it has some contrast like the fresh growth of this Sambuncus [elderberry] Black Lace

Or this Phsocarpus [ninebark] Diablo

Then again it's hard to beat the chartreuse color of my Cornus garden glow - the new leaves have an almost metallic sheen that I have yet to capture with my camera.

I mostly go for color in my choice of foliage but even I remember to include texture sometimes - grasses add nice texture and movement to the garden [like this Panicum Heavy Metal]

Thanks to Pam at Digging for this meme.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - June 2014

It's a late post for me for GBBD (thanks, Carol!). Three days of gloom and rain followed by lots of strong winds and today was the first chance I had to get out with my camera. Since The Queen Bee [my mom] is arriving for a visit later today I did a quick round with the camera to get at least SOMETHING to post.

These Petunias were purchased as a group called 'Blueberry Muffin' - I like the color combination [although the name makes me hungry... guess I should have had breakfast before I started this post]

Tradescantia [spiderwort or dayflower] is in full bloom - this plant is a descendant of Sweet Kate and/or Concord Grape and/or whatever is growing in my neighbors yards. I plan to transplant all of my Tradescantia from the front garden (where they're spreading a bit aggressively) to the backyard where they will need that aggression to stand up to the Rowdy Dogs

Iris iforgotiboughtthisii - I have several irises I must have purchased as bulbs (?) that have a lot of different colors. I particularly like this one.

My Calycanthus is blooming nicely. The blooms don't particularly stand out - you need to look close to appreciate them. They are supposed to have a spicy scent but I've never noticed it.

THIS however, does have a strong scent. I've embedded it in this image - scratch it and sniff. Wait. Your computer doesn't have scratch and sniff? I guess you'll have to take my word about it. This Hoya was a pass along plant. I wasn't all that impressed until I moved it to a sunnier spot and it started blooming. I like the looks of the blooms and BOY do they have a STRONG fragrance. Clearly in the wild Hoya are pollinated by nocturnal animals (moths probably) - the fragrance is strongest after dark. To give you an idea of the strength this plant is on the first floor, in my office and if I wake up in the night (when The Husband starts snoring, for example) I can smell it in our second floor bedroom. Wow.

Not pictured - Salvia, Baptisia, Physocarpus, Penstemon, Scabiosa, Heuchera, and probably a few others that I can't see from my office window so I'm forgetting about. June is a GREAT month for blooms here on The Edge!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My Favorite Plant of the Week

My favorite plant this week is Tanacetum coccineum James Kelway.

It's not very interesting much of the year but when it's in bloom - wow!

Yes, it is that insanely colored!

Tanacetum is a polite plant, it doesn't grow large, it doesn't crowd its neighbors, it doesn't spread seeds into the neighbor's lawn but it does provide a nice, reliable screaming bright splash of color in the early summer garden. I like screaming bright color.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Salvia nemerosa (May Night, Viola Klaus, Caradonna)

Iris idontrememberbuyingthisii

Heuchera (supposed to be Frosted Violet but two of the five I bought look like this and the other three look like, well Frosted Violet)

Heuchara mislabeledus

Dianthus Great Wicked Witch

Geum Totally Tangerine in front of Siberian Iris fromneighborii

Aqueligia fragrans scented varieties I started from seeds I bought from Plant World Seeds in England 
Fragrance is subtle and is overshadowed by my neighbors Lilac that's also blooming now

Baptisia australis

Siberian Iris lostustagus

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Carpenter Bees

I support my local pollinators. I give them a diverse range of plants to feed on, places to build homes, I leave leaf litter and debris in the garden for them to overwinter. In return they give me... TOMATOES! It's a fair trade.

This past winter was harsh and my Buddleia were all killed back to near or at ground level. After I was sure they had finished sprouting from what wood remained alive I cut back the dead. But the carpetner bees had beat me to those dead branches.

Carpenter bees chew into dead wood and create long tunnels parallel to the stem or branch (or deck railing). They put food in the end of the tunnel, lay an egg, close off the end to create a chamber and repeat till they have filled the tunnel with food and potential offspring.

I was both thrilled and dismayed to find this when I cut back my Buddleia. A carpenter bee nest cavity, complete with caterpillars for her offspring. As you can see several of the chambers are empty, probably from when the branch split and the caterpillars (and eggs) spilled out. 

What's a pro-pollinator biologist to do?

I collected the branch and set it up in a plastic bin. I put a little soil in the bottom in case the larva survive and need some substrate to bury themselves as pupae. I cut a hole in the top for gas exchange (and covered it with window screen because, really, even I don't want loose bees in the house). And now I wait and see - will any of the eggs survive? I wish them luck. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Strange new problem....

I've had squirrels on my bird feeders before but not like this...

[sorry for the picture quality - cell phone photo through a window screen]

This Eastern Grey Squirrel kept shaking the hummingbird feeder to get some of the sugar water to splash out and then licked the feeder. I'm sure she was getting a sugar high. I hope she doesn't become addicted. I don't think I want to fill the feeder up daily just in order to give this squirrel diabetes!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Support Your Garden

I have a chronic problem that plants in my garden grow larger than the tag predicts (and larger than the same plants in the garden down the street... I think it's because of the ritual sacrifice I do every spring). Sometimes these plants get so large they need support. If I was a controlling (and organized) gardener I would cut them back half way through the growth cycle so they ended up shorter.

I'm not that controlling (organized).

These are the plants that get too big for plant hoops.

So I'm experimenting. My Baptisia (that I wouldn't want to cut back anyway, it blooms too early) gets top heavy and in strong rains it tends to flop over - I'm trying chicken wire with the hope that new growth will grow THROUGH the chicken wire and hide it. We'll see.

My October Skies Aster (either Aster or Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) could be cut back. But I love it's oversized exuberant blooms in the late fall. I'm trying the square tomato cages. They're nearly invisible already, we'll see if they can carry the load.

Speaking Typing of tomatoes... They're always problematic. I got this idea from a neighbor. Tomato cages combined with stakes. The cages support the lower branches and the stakes are to support the weight of the tall plant. It worked when we did our community garden and had 8 foot tall tomatoes so it should work here.

Now we just wait and see which ones work and which ones look least annoying.

Or I could get on the ball and cut things back. 

Just not the tomatoes. 

Or the Baptisia

Hmmm... I think I'm sensing a problem...

Monday, June 2, 2014

It's JUNE!

It's been a long, cool wait here in New England until we finally arrive at the month of JUNE! Warm weather, good gardening, lots to get done before the heat arrives and it's too late to plant anything else.

The iris in my rain garden are still blooming - the early bloomers are done but I have some late bloomers still going strong.

Penstemon Husker Red is not shy about self seeding. Every time I see a plant growing in a crack in pavement like this I am amazed at nature will find a way.

My Centaurea Black Sprite is just starting to bloom. It's much less aggressive than Amethyst in Snow and I really like the contrast between the nearly black blooms and the yellow-green foliage.

Nepeta is going strong and attracting plenty of native pollinators (this is Dropmore, a shorter version than Walker's Low - the blooms are a bluer purple than they look on my computer monitor).

My Cornus Garden Glow is at it's peak - gorgeous leaves, gorgeous blooms. A bit larger than the predicted 3-5 foot. I've started cuttings in the hope that I can plant this somewhere away from the house and take down these oversized shrubs. I can't seem to find it for sale anywhere or I'd just buy a new one and dig these out (and won't THAT be a chore!).

My Hostas are fully opened. I have a fondness for BIG hostas. I plant them inside the fence and the dogs are a good deer deterrent. We're fortunate that we don't have many deer despite bordering on a couple of hundred acres of woods. I think the coyotes are keeping the deer in check. Just don't let your cats run free around here.

At this point if a plant hasn't poked it's leaves up I'm assuming it didn't make it. 

You made it just in time, Helenium!

By the end of this month I hope to have a fresh layer of mulch in all the gardens and to have made progress on the grass removal in the backyard (sadly not a sign of new beds being put in but of pulling grass away from growing shrubs that I didn't clear enough grass around originally).

And I hope my Buddleia are looking better. They died back nearly to the ground this winter. Not a pretty sight.