Saturday, September 10, 2016

Another quandary

At the banquet for the Garden Bloggers Fling, the centerpiece at each table was an Encore Azalea plant. I like azaleas as much as the next person, but they don't grow in my zone. Nobody at my table wanted it, even the person who "won" it, as they had flights to catch and preferred to do so sans horticulture, especially those from Toronto (pesky customs!) So I adopted it on the spot.

Did I mention that azaleas don't grow in my zone?

This one is called Autumn Amethyst. Its coldest zone is 6A. I am in zone 5B. No, wait, according to the government, I am now in zone 6A, but just barely. According to the Encore Azalea website, this azalea *should* grow here (with some winter protection). Huh.

My original plan was to keep this baby in a pot and tuck it away in the garage for the winter. Now I'm not so sure that is a good idea. If I were to plant it in the ground, where would it go? It needs 6 hours of sunshine, preferably in the morning, until around 2pm, then light shade. That spells "front yard" or way in the back of the backyard, in my yard. It also can grow to be 4'x4'. That is kind of big, so I can't just tuck it in somewhere.

This I will have to ponder.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A quandary

I short while ago I happily reported caterpillars on some milkweed in my yard. There were only a few milkweed plants in this particular location, along the south side of the house, where I have been establishing a prairie sampler. I wondered what the caterpillars would do, once the milkweeds were decimated.

Bye-bye, butterfly weed

Apparently, they crawled down the bed and proceeded to decimate the butterfly weed as well. There were only three plants to begin with. Now all I can find is this one, stripped of its blossoms and leaves. I hope the roots survive the winter and it (and its brethren) return next year.

I can't fence out the moths and butterflies, but I do discourage the rabbits with hoops of poultry netting. Otherwise, this is what happens.

Smooth move, aster-loving rabbit

Smooth aster must be particularly yummy. I protected the other asters, but missed this one.

The switch grass had flopped over my new oakleaf hydrangea. When I went to check on the situation, I found that the hydrangea was GONE. I'm not sure if the culprit is a rabbit or the resident woodchuck. I've never had to worry about the Limelight hydrangea, so I assumed this one was safe. The joke is on me.

The case of the disappearing hydrangea

My yard is not designated a backyard habitat for nothing, but I admit to being rather peeved when the denizens of that habitat do more damage than I deem acceptable. I'm not the only one to suffer the ravages of wildlife, but at least I don't have a porcupine to deal with. Or deer. At least, not yet.

Monday, August 29, 2016

I'm bugged

August must be the month for bugginess in the garden. Pollinators seem to be at their busiest, including bees, of course.

I don't know what these orange and black beetles are, but they are everywhere.

Although I do not have photographic proof, I am 95% sure I saw an Eastern Tailed - Blue (Everes comyntas) on the Joe Pye last week. We'll have to settle for this white cabbage butterfly (Pieris rapae) which is omnipresent each year, all summer long.

At least I found a monarch, on the zinnias and not the milkweed, nectaring and not laying eggs. Maybe some other summer we'll have caterpillars.

There are lots of other little insects of one sort or another, not inclined to sit still and be photographed, let alone identified. I accept their presence as a good sign, that my yard welcomes all bugs, as long as they stay out of the house proper.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Art in my garden

On the Garden Bloggers Tour, I saw a lot of garden art, but cannot envision much of it working in my yard. While cleaning out the garage, I almost threw out a wire sculpture my daughter made in high school, of a ballerina. Why not hang that in the garden?

Unfortunately, she looks too much like something hung in effigy. I plan to reposition her arms and find a better location than the bird feeding station. Hopefully, she will withstand the elements, at least during the summer.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Not a monarch, but still a caterpillar on milkweed

There were hornworms on the tomato plants. My son picked them off and threw them over the fence before I could get a look, so I've been on the lookout for more. Then I took a tour of the yard. The aphid-infested milkweed host a variety of insects - ladybugs, wasps, etc. - AND some caterpillars!

These are the "other milkweed caterpillar", larva for the milkweed tussock moth, a.k.a. milkweed tiger moth, more specifically euchaetes egle. I trapped one and brought it in for my g'daughter to see. After learning the chrysalis must winter over, I decided I will return it to its natural environment, then try to remember NOT to clean up that small stand of milkweed this fall, ugly as it is.

Also in the yard was this very cooperative swallowtail, enjoying the zinnia.

The Mexican sunflower finally bloomed, much to the delight of this bee, also a cooperative subject.

What's "bugging" you in your yard?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


As I wandered through blogland, I read about a gardener who was getting a new window over her kitchen sink. She was naturally concerned about what the view through that window would be. The view out my kitchen window is a bit limited, but I began to consider just what people see when they are in my yard.

Just as one doesn't always see the household clutter or dust except through a visitor's eyes, I don't really SEE my yard. So I strolled around with my camera, taking shots looking this way and that. This exercise was quite revealing - things look worse than I realized.

For one thing, there is clutter born of convenience: garden hoses laying across the lawn, a potting table piled high with empty plastic containers, garden carts hither and yon, etc. While individual plants or small groupings of plants look fine, the lawn looks rather horrible, the beds look rather horrible, almost everything looks rather horrible when taken as a whole.

So I've been considering some improvements. As an example, here is the north side of the house, where the hosta bed grows. (Please excuse the crudity of my illustrations. I'm sure there is a tool somewhere than can do what I am trying to do with Paint.)

Not bad, when one's eye focuses on the hostas. BUT what if I mixed in some different plants, like black cohosh along the siding and a shrub at the end of the bed. Would a privacy fence help frame the view? And let's get rid of the forsythia just opposite the gate.

This looks more inviting to me. Garden art or planted pots could be hung on the fence. I don't want to get too fancy but maybe an arch over a gate of wrought iron would work here? And a suggestion of a path using flagstone?

Opinions? Suggestions? Low interest loans?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Uggy muggy

I'm reading Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren, in which she states plants love humidity. Their pores relax and they breathe in the moisture. Not so us two-leggeds - that humid air seems particularly devoid of oxygen. The rhododendron appears to be an exception to the rule, curling its leaves against the heat. This dense gardener finally got a clue and watered the 'PJM' today.

Indian hemp seed pods

This is the time of year when I am a little sick of gardening. The heat index has been around 100 lately, so I've been sequestered in the house, not even venturing out to water. Maybe because of the humidity, most plants are fine with my neglect, but not the annual vines that were supposed to cover the pergola. They failed to do so, so I lost interest in keeping them alive. Oops!

Cardinal vine at top of redbud tree

Cardinal vine, up close

It's too late to start anything very ambitious and too early for fall planting. There are always weeds to tackle, but other than beheading the Queen Anne's lace, I'm not motivated. I can think of things to do - transplant iris, order in some wood chips, call around for shrubs I want to plant this autumn - but all I do is think about it.

Identified: Berries of Solanum dulcamara

Next week the temperatures are supposed to be more moderate, plus it might actually rain significant amounts. Sounds like a good time to broadcast the mini clover, plus address those tasks rummaging around in my brain (see above).

Bumble bee on Joe Pye

Meanwhile, I think I'll take advantage of these lazy hazy days and just relax. Inside. Where there is AC. And iced tea.