Saturday, August 19, 2017

Guessing game

Now that I have a dog, I am taking better advantage of the walking opportunities in this community, specifically the Rivergreenway and other local trails. I'm pleased to note that a variety of native plants are taking up residence along these urban pathways. Some are easier to identify than others, though.

Butterflyweed, obviously.


And ironweed.


I had to look this one up, even though I should know it: Culver's root.


I thought this was bindweed, but the heart-shaped leaves are telling me wild potato-vine.


Sunflowers and sunflowerlike flowers are often difficult to identify, but not this one.


It's leaves scream, Cup-plant!


This one I'm not sure about.


The leaves are not helping me, either. Guesses?


I feel like I should know this one. Stinging nettle maybe?


The fruit on this shrub remind me of my highbush cranberry, but not the leaves. Mine is a 'Wentworth'. Anyone? Anyone?


I'm also pleased to see so many local gardens sporting so-called wild flowers, especially coneflower and black-eyed Susan. The word is out!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Almost bloom day

Mid August, the light begins to change and school starts (at least around here) even though technically it is still summer. The all-summer-long flowers are still at it, especially the zinnias, but the fall ones are starting to show up.

First up are the asters, who are just beginning their show. This one is a smooth aster, Aster laevis. It's not very showy, but attracts butterflies. It also tolerates dry conditions such as those on the south side of my house.


I had forgotten about this pink aster, 'Wild Romance'. I thought maybe I had lost it, so I'm glad to see it is still going. Or it will be, once the blossoms open up.


This is a New England aster, 'Purple Dome'. It's shorter and more compact than its native cousin. Speaking of which, I moved two of the native ones but they are not looking very happy in their new location. Fingers crossed.


The late hostas are just starting to bloom, too. This is 'Royal Standard' and it gets quite tall and tolerates sun more than some of my other hostas. Hummingbirds like these.


This volunteer sunflower is just opening, unlike it's 10-foot-tall cousin in the backyard, which is not ready yet. Usually I have a lot of sunflowers in the garden, but not this year.


Well, I should amend that statement. I started a dozen or so something flowers, then promptly forgot what they were. I thought maybe they were Mexican sunflowers, but the first one to bloom is definitely not that.


Then there are the midsummer staples. The rest of the daylilies are done, but this lemony one blooms a little later and a little longer. If it weren't so close to the fiber optic cable (which is about 2 inches below the surface), I would divide this clump and spread the joy.


This year I finally got around to planting the short toothed mountain mint plants (Pycnanthemum multicum) I brought home from the Garden Bloggers Fling last year. They seem to be doing well despite my ignorance. I've never grown these, had never heard of them, but hey, I'll take free plants almost any time. They are attractive to butterflies as a source of nectar and pollen.


This is the time of year the Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus 'Aphrodite') comes into its own. The shrub, which is feeling a bit crowded these days, is covered with blooms like this one. And the blooms are covered with pollinators.


I really whacked the 'Limelight' hydrangea this year and wondered if that was such a smart move. But I think the blooms are bigger than ever. That may be from all the rain we have received, or it may be the pruning helped.


We'll skip the flowers I have highlighted before that are still going: zinnias, butterfly bush, rudbekia, honeysuckle vine, etc.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A gift of silvergrass

After removing the tractor tire, I decided to move the rhubarb that was inside the tractor tire. The tractor tire was once a sandbox (and probably a convenient outdoor bathroom for the outdoor cat), so despite my efforts over the years, the soil is still pretty sandy there. I was going to let the area return to lawn, but my SO offered me a clump of his silvergrass, which I have long admired. His soil is very sandy, so I figured it would do well in this spot.


You can't really see them in the photo below, but the silvergrass has been joined by two butterflyweed plants that miraculously survived last summer's assault by the "other milkweed caterpillar", larva for the milkweed tussock moth. One of these caterpillars was already starting in on one of these plants, but I deposited said caterpillar near some common milkweed, ironically the very ones they denuded last summer.


There is a variety of butterflyweed that grows well in clay soil, but these are not that. These are Asciepias tuberosa, which I hope will thrive here. I have no idea what the variety of silvergrass is, if anything special.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Should they stay or should they go?

I planted trumpet vine in 2004, before I started this blog. Apparently, I made no note of its variety, but I did find an old post that indicated I waited five years for it to bloom, primarily because it was not getting enough sun. The idea behind planting this obnoxious vine was to obscure the chain link fence, which it never did to any satisfaction. However, it did pop up all over the place, causing much cursing and consternation.


The shade-providing silver maple is gone, as is the chain link, replaced by a privacy fence, and yet this thing still survives. I will probably regret it, but I am leaning toward letting it be, just to see if I can control it and if it can provide some nice cover for the fence. It is native, although not in Indiana.

Another pernicious vine is Virginia creeper. This corner of the yard has been cleaned up somewhat, after I ripped a mile or so of Virginia creeper off the serviceberry (while obsessively counting leaf clusters - no poison ivy). Virginia creeper turns a lovely scarlet in the fall, so I'm letting some grow on the fence. It too is native.


I think my rule of thumb going forward will be to let these vines climb the back fence (FOR NOW) because the area behind the fence is technically my property. Also, the view of the neighbor on that side is blocked by his privet. But I think I will keep the side fences clear of climbers so I don't have to worry about them encroaching on those neighbors' yards.

I've also been pulling down what I think of as wild grape vine. So far, it has been growing on the side fences but not the back fence. Unlike the others discussed here, it is not a very aggressive plant, at least not in my yard. I think it is not native, so I may continue to curtail it. My yard, my (arbitrary) rules.

Monday, July 24, 2017

For every weed there is a season

Today was a perfect day for weeding. The soil was saturated with recent rains, the sky was overcast, the temperature in the low 70's. I spent two hours on the front of the house and another hour under the 'Limelight' hydrangea before my back said, "ENOUGH!" Both areas had been weeded earlier this year, yet they were full of more but different weeds.

This is the season of what I think of as farm weeds: lamb's quarters, purslane, plantain, smartweed, bindweed, thistle, etc. Then there are the so-called weeds, native plants I will allow in the backyard in limited quantities but not the front yard, like pokeweed and goldenrod. The wild strawberry is okay in the lawn but not the flower beds. The volunteer violets and columbine and milkweed can stay. Several weeds I don't know the names of have to go. Let's not forget the poison ivy, destined to be sprayed.

In the past, I just tossed all weeds onto the compost pile, which never got hot enough to kill weed seeds. No wonder the weeds seemed to be taking over. Now the weeds go into yard waste bags for pickup by the city. (I still have a compost bin the for kitchen scraps and other non-weed discards.) I've also been mulching more, over sheets of newspaper, and mowing and/or weed whacking where I haven't been able to actually pull weeds.

I think my strategy is working. There is less Canada thistle, one of the worst offenders, and even the mulberry appears to be giving up. The Queen Anne's lace is under control - the last of it is destined for the dye pot, as it produces some lovely colors. Even the mint, catnip, and lemon balm that I planted oh-so-many years ago is surprisingly sparse.

My current nemesis is creeping Charlie. Success with the other weeds is giving me hope, though, that even this pesky weed can be conquered.

What are your worst weed nightmares?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Hardscape is hard

I don't know if a tractor tire counts as hardscape, but removing one is certainly not easy. Many years ago I gave it an unsuccessful try, then resigned myself to living with it. However, when I suggested my SO have a go, he accepted the challenge.


The previous owners had installed the tire as a sandbox for their kids, so the soil is very sandy. Despite my efforts to humus-ize it over the years, it is still not the best growing medium. Also, the dumb thing is just in the way.


While my SO slaved away at the tire, I whacked away at the nearby raspberry patch. Despite my annual cleaning ritual, this raised bed had become choked with trumpet vine (one plant that should come with a warning label) and red clover. The berry crop was barely worth suffering through the mosquitoes for.


Once we are past the hellish weather of August, I plan to move the rhubarb to a raised bed, then level this spot out. A coralberry bush (which can have an 8' spread) is slated to go somewhere between the raspberry bed and the rhubarb tire. I haven't decided yet whether to plant a new raspberry bed elsewhere.

Another project in progress is the new resin shed. I told my 6-year-old granddaughter that she could paint it, but when she started talking rainbows, I took matters - and a dozen cans of spray paint - into my own hands.


She was disappointed not to be involved in this step, but I didn't want her breathing paint fumes. I'm going to add some definition to the bands of color, then she can add details to her heart's content.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Flower power, part II

There were a few flowers that I forgot to include the other day in my photo essay. Some I walked right by, others are not easy to keep track of because of other obscuring plants. I don't want them to feel neglected, though.

Eryngium yuccifolium

I can't believe I forgot the rattlesnake master. The one I planted last year is doing so well I added two more to the area. They were once used to treat snakebite, hence the name. Oddly enough, they are members of the carrot/parsley family, Apiaceae, although they look like yuccas. A volunteer hitched a ride in the prairie sampler planted on the south side of the house. There it will stay, as their deep taproot makes them difficult to transplant.

Eryngium yuccifolium

This anise hyssop is one I walked right by, distracted by its neighbors. Also, it looks a lot like catnip. It is a member of the mint family and supposedly will spread like mint, but I have not had a problem with it.

Agastache foeniculum

Deadheading may prolong its bloom period. I'm not very disciplined about removing spent blossoms; maybe I should be.

Agastache foeniculum, with Japanese beetle

Does the prairie blazingstar always grow in crazy swirls like this? This is the biggest variety of Liatris. It attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, so it is unfortunate that it is planted on the south side of the house where few will see it, even me.

Liatris pycnostachya

I am rethinking the prairie sampler, considering moving some (most) of the plants to another area, to enhance my viewing pleasure.

Liatris pycnostachya, up close

There is a smaller variety of Liatris, Liatris spicata I think, a.k.a. gayfeather, in the front yard, nearly totally hidden by the blue false indigo. I didn't realize the latter would get so big (bought a restraining fence for it today). Also, I moved this particular plant to the prairie sampler on the south side of the house (where it is not yet blooming), but enough must have been left behind to survive.


I have a couple of varieties of New England aster. This is the big one, which is trying to bloom already. The size of this "shrub" is so big for the bed that it is a prime candidate for relocation.


This honeysuckle vine is completely hidden behind the Wentworth highbush cranberry and Rose of Sharon. It seems perfectly happy out of the limelight, climbing skyward in its search for sunlight. I hope the hummingbirds can find it.

Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler'

And just for fun, one more zinnia pic.


Yesterday a monarch butterfly drifted into the backyard, then right out again. *sigh*