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.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Not hip to be square

I recently checked out a satellite shot of my property from Google maps. The last time I looked, it showed the raised beds being constructed in the middle of the backyard. Now those all are done. There are a few things missing, like the newest trees, but all in all, this is a fairly accurate snapshot.

I am very left brained, and my mind favors grids, square corners, symmetry, etc. (The concrete guy who poured the driveway had to talk me into adding the swoop to the front walk.) Yet when I consider the many gardens we saw on the Garden Bloggers Fling, rarely were these design concepts employed. Instead, there were curved beds and meandering paths and visual surprises. Stuff was layered - plants, hardscape, houses. The gardens looked both deliberate and casually constructed.

I also have a tendency to position plants in a patchwork of singles (maybe because of quilting?) In the Fling gardens, I saw instead groupings of odd numbers along side the larger singles. A designer from Toronto (sorry! I am so bad with names!) explained that with singles, there is no place for the eye to rest, whereas groupings and masses draw the eye.

My yard includes almost all these plants, but not arranged like this.

When I saw the sedum below, every which one I have, I immediately wanted to drive home and rearrange the plants by the front walk.

When I did get home and looked at that bed, I made some interesting observations: the Dragon's Blood had migrated to one end of the bed and some of the Purple Emperor looked great while other plants struggled (the bed gets variable amounts of sun), the Autumn Joy and Lemon Ball were positioned willy-nilly, the coreopsis did not "work" with the sedum, etc. I didn't want to risk moving plants in the midsummer heat, but I'm making mental notes for next spring.

I've also been looking at garden design books from the library. These are visually frustrating, as the photos show what one can do with ACRES of rolling countryside. I find it difficult to translate the sweeping vistas to something I can use in my rectangle of a yard. But I am picking up some useful knowledge. We'll see how it manifests on my third of an acre plot.