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*

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Paperbark maple, in situ

My SO and I stopped at the main branch of the Allen County Public Library for an art festival, but I became totally distracted by a tree outside the entrance. A little research reveals that it is an Acer griseum, a.k.a. paperbark maple. It's not native, but it sure is pretty, especially in fall and winter. It is also a good height for my ranch house (I don't like towering giants). I'm not sure where I would put it, but it is going on my list.

This bark screams WINTER INTEREST

From the shape of the leaves, I would not have guessed this is a maple. Fortunately, its seeds are difficult to germinate, so it shouldn't run rampant through nature preserves.

Leaves and winged samaras

If I had known the leaves are gray with fine hairs underneath, I would have tried photographing them.

See the birdie?

No known habitat for local wildlife, but don't tell that to this mourning dove.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Flower power

My yard is on the large size, so while I have lots of plants in bloom, they lack visual impact because they aren't planted in drifts. This year I have been moving things around, so the nomads are not blooming hot and heavy yet either. Here is what's in bloom right now.

The tiger lilies are done, but daylily season is here.

Midsummer is also coreopsis season.

'Zagreb' coreopsis

'Tequila Sunrise' (I think) coreopsis

Lanceleaf coreopsis

The clematis is hanging on.

'Avant-garde' clematis

'Betty Corning' clematis

The first Rose of Sharon is shy, facing the wrong way.

Hibiscus syriacus 'Aphrodite'

This is the first year for smooth hydrangea. I guess this is as good as it gets bloomwise.

The catmint is basically done, but the catnip is making up for it. I checked my wildflower book - catnip is an alien, so I have started eliminating it from the yard. Don't tell Finn.

Some volunteers are native.



Other volunteers are a mystery, but I'm guessing this is a weed.

The coneflowers have been up and at 'em for a while, but the rudbekia is just starting.

Despite my neglect, some bee balm and yarrow have survived.

My prairie smoke didn't smoke this year, but the smoke bush is.

Can anyone explain to me why sweet alyssum continues blooming when crowded in a pot, but if planted by its lonesome, the blooming stops?

Gardening is always full of surprises: some columbine continues to bloom while the early flowering hostas seem sparse this year.

And last but not least, some butterfly attractants.

Common milkweed

Buddleia 'Miss Violet'

I actually saw a butterfly today that wasn't a paper white. Maybe a black swallowtail? It flitted around, not settling on anything despite my efforts to provide a variety of choices.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Zinnias, finally

I don't know why I have been so impatient for the zinnias to show their bright happy faces this year. If I could grown only one annual, it would be zinnias. They are my never-fail flower... until now.

Ordinarily, I grow zinnias from seed, but this year I picked up some 'Profusion Cherry' zinnias that were labeled "For Part Shade" as I thought they might be good for under the smoke bush. I have not had much luck growing much of anything under the smoke bush, and these were no exception. They are doing okay, but not the 12"-18" inch compact specimens I expected.

Red is my favorite color, and these redundantly named 'Red Scarlet' zinnias fit the bill. Although the color was predicted by the seed package, the range of shapes is a surprise.

Apparently, I discarded the seed pack for the following pastel zinnias. If memory serves me correctly (a BIG IF), these are smaller in stature than the reds above. So far, the plants are living up to that expectation.

This is just the beginning of zinnia season. They will bloom until frost, luring butterflies and hummingbirds. So glad they are finally here!