Sunday, December 03, 2017

Grasses and mostly bad news

I recently learned Chinese silver grass is deemed invasive. I have not noticed it growing beyond its bounds locally - and there is a LOT of it in local landscaping - but that doesn't mean it isn't or won't be a problem.

Intellectually, I am against installing invasive plants in one's yard. BUT I can't help but wonder if my acting ethically makes much difference. This is me making excuses for keeping my silver grass. Any opinions out there?

I did remove my burning bush (or at least, I am still battling it - it's difficult to eliminate). Again, it is a very popular landscape option in theses parts AND I have not noticed it growing in undeveloped lots (unlike ornamental pear). I had an ulterior motive for removing the burning bush, though, as it was crowding the gold mop.

Now that the burning bush is (mostly) gone, the gold mop is beginning to fill out on the south side. If I at least prune back the barberry (ANOTHER INVASIVE) on the east side, the gold mop will be restored to all its glory.

And now I am wondering if dwarf fountain grass, specifically 'Hameln', is invasive. For years, my three plants behaved well. But now they are spreading all over the place. I would like to move it from its current location - it's crowding the cotoneaster - to a stone-mulched bed along one side of the driveway. Worth the effort? I don't know.

And then there are native grasses that are problematic. The northern sea oats spread very easily, and the switch grass flops. The latter problem is of my own making, as there is not enough sunshine in this location by the front porch.

In a sunnier location, the switch grass could look like this grouping at a local city park:

So far, I have not heard anything about hardy pampas grass being invasive. It also tolerates shade fairly well, although it too could probably use more light.

Meanwhile, prairie dropseed is spectacular in its un-spectacular-ness. Is this normal?

The final bad news is that my minimalist approach to dog fencing is not working out. Clio, a.k.a. Big Foot, is not about to be stopped by short ornamental fencing. I obviously need to come up with a better plan.

I'm thinking electric fencing, at least for a while.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Feels like spring

Sunshine, temperatures in the 50's, sun low in the sky. It could be March or April instead of November. The first seed catalog arrived before Thanksgiving, which of course has me thinking about next year's yard and garden. But instead of just thinking, today I was doing.

Since I adopted Clio from the Fort Wayne Pitbull Coalition, my backyard is a mess. She and Watson zoom around, and Clio's big feet churn up the sod. Recent rains have not helped.

Then there is the digging. The two of them actually caught a mole. I didn't know there were moles around here. Voles, yes, moles, no.

So now I am puzzling over how best to rescue the yard. To protect the non-raised beds, fencing of some sort seems to be in order, but I don't want to obscure the plantings. There's "invisible fencing" and electric fencing, but I have not had much luck with those in the past because eventually they stop working and figuring out where the problem is is a hassle.

The dogs are pretty well behaved if I am out in the yard, so I'm hoping if I provide a barrier that is more visible, I can teach them to not cross into the beds. Toward that end, today I edged the hosta bed and erected a short white wire fence, stabilized with not-as-short white pickets. I may add some fluttery tape, the better to see the boundary.

The grass will have to wait until spring to be rejuvenated. Maybe overseeding with a tougher variety will help. I am also contemplating stepping stones of some sort on the north and south sides of the house, so at least I have somewhere to walk above the mud.

And I am open to suggestions. Anyone?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A few bulbs and corms

The light says autumn but the weather says summer, albeit a nice comfortable one. We still have not had a frost of any kind, let alone a killing one that transitions the garden to DONE. Most years we even have a little snow by now, but it has also been a bit dry. I am still mowing weekly.

I'm not a big fall bulb planter, partially because rabbits eat the crocus and tulip blossoms. Daffodils they leave alone, and hyacinth, grape and otherwise. Still, I decided to take a chance on some pink snow crocus (Crocus tommassinianus 'Roseus') and early snowdrops (Galanthus woronowii). These can be planted in the lawn, but since I have this perpetual internal battle over whether to treat the lawn or not, I deposited them along the border of edged circles that surround the Golden Spririt smokebush, the flowering crab, and the hawthorn tree. If they multiply and creep into the lawn, that is okay by me.

The trees have not turned, the leaves have not dropped, the zinnias continue to bloom along with the dahlia, which really picked up the pace. I debated over whether to try some fall transplanting, and today moved one Stella d'Oro daylily to front the flowering crab. Otherwise, I think I'll wait until spring.

How is autumn progressing in your neck of the woods? I'm guessing S-L-O-W-L-Y.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park (no pics)

Last Thursday my SO and I took a day trip to Grand Rapids, MI, to see at least part of ArtPrize 2017. Since the temperatures were predicted to be above 90 degrees, we wisely limited ourselves to two venues (out of 182!), the Grand Rapids Art Museum and the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. In the latter, we further limited ourselves to the art (which gratefully was inside), the Japanese garden, and the sculpture garden.

After attending the 2016 Garden Bloggers Fling, I wrote a post on the definition of a Japanese garden. Of course, this one had all the elements. While circumnavigating the pond, we felt the garden was not very large, but once we climbed to a high spot, we saw we were wrong. My favorite part was the Zen dry rock garden - boulders surrounded by raked gravel. A docent explained that they used gravel instead of sand so that the form would withstand heavy rains. The raking pattern resembles a pond, which is calming, as opposed to something like a river.

The sculpture collection at the garden is inside and out. Some of the outdoor ones are HUGE. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the battery on my SO's camera died shortly after we started into the outdoor garden. I took advantage of that occurrence to cut the garden tour short because, OMG, the HEAT!

One jarring note to the gardens was the apparent naming rights that abound. There's the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, the Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden, the DeVos Keeler Gift Shop, etc. It made me think I have been taking the wrong approach to funding my gardening efforts. If I could get my (not-so-wealthy) friends and relatives to cough up some bucks, I would happily slap their names on sections of my yard. What do you think?

The Patrick J. McDonnell Silvergrass Island

Thursday, September 14, 2017

I can't keep up

It has been almost a month since I last posted. Not a lot worth noting happens in the yard in August - bean picking, a bit of watering, mowing - but by September things are starting to fade, including me. Already I can feel myself shifting to indoor hobbies.

The rudbeckia is just about finished for the season.

The heads on the hydrangea are so HUGE this year, they droop.


The Rose of Sharon is the last to bloom in the spring and one of the last to stop in the fall.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Aphrodite'

I was afraid I had inadvertently pulled up all the volunteer goldenrod, but some persists.

The marigolds are putting on a late show.

Zinnias are one flower you can depend on, all summer long.

'Red Scarlet'

The sunflowers are at various stages, from bloom to droop.

Despite the dogs rampaging through the south bed, some asters are still standing.

This sweet alyssum made a late showing, to provide a lovely contrast to the coleus.

Sedum is another dependable provider of fall color.

'Autumn Joy'

I added some anonymous hardy mums to the big pots. If I had realized how low they would sit, I would have left them in their pots.

The dahlias, planted as a source of dye, continue to pop out one or two blossoms at a time.

'Black Satin'

It's almost time for fall cleanup. It's also almost time for a post mortem, to rehash what went right and what went wrong this year. I'll wait a few months before starting to plan for next year, as that's a good mid-winter project.

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.