Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A bee paradise

Thanks to the heat and my bum hip, the backyard is a mess. I am very thankful that the privacy fence shields that mess from the casual observer. Occasionally someone needs access to my backyard, like the underground utilities guy (my neighbor has plans for her shed). I was prepared to deliver my usual apology about the mess when he pronounced my backyard a "bee's paradise". That led to discussions of beekeeping (a potential hobby I decided was too much work). His words gave my mess new meaning, though.

Despite my neglect, stuff is growing and blooming.

Cupplant (Silphium perfoliatum)

Cupplant (Silphium perfoliatum) - up close

Sweet Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa)

Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata)

Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya)

Prairie Blazingstar (Liatris pycnostachya) with bee

Also because of the heat and my bum hip, the front yard is not in much better shape than the back. Ordinarily, I am a weeder and a mulcher, but this year I am also a sprayer, as there is a patch of poison ivy I literally don't want to touch, growing under the gold mop. Despite my efforts, my hip is just getting worse, so once mowing season is over, I will probably get in line for a replacement. It's hell getting old.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

It's a jungle out there!

The heat wave finally broke, so I took advantage of the lower temps and overcast sky to mow and trim and weed a bit, mostly in the front yard. I tell myself to just pull a garden cart full of weeds each day and the yard will look halfway decent, but like housework, it is too easy to say maƱana.

In previous years, I have complained bitterly about the lack of blue berries on the Viburnum dendatum 'Blue Muffin'. For whatever reason - polar vortex? rainy spring? heat wave? = it looks like it will have a bumper crop this year. For the same or different reason, the bishop's weed had very few seed heads while the yarrow decided to bloom.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the butterflyweed looks good this year AND now I can report it is doing its job of attracting monarchs. This fellow hung around just long enough for a couple of decent shots.

I was equally happy to find (bumble?) bees on the bee balm, aka monarda. Many years ago I had plenty of this in the so-called meadow, but somehow it all disappeared. I'm happy to have it back with its unique scent.

In an unrelated note, I am attempting to improve my drawing skills by rendering one flower a day, in a range of mediums, mostly colored pencil or markers. Needless to say, my first efforts are obviously first efforts. For days when the weather is uncooperative, I am capturing some closeups of blossoms, so I can continue this pursuit indoors. The drawing results are posted on my IG account, under bittenbyknittin.

Here's hoping the milder weather continues for a while.

Monday, July 01, 2019

So THAT'S what smells so good

Recently, when I stepped out the patio door, I smelled something wonderful but could not place. Today I realized it is the common milkweed. I'm surprised there isn't a perfume called Eau de Asclepias syriaca.

I have seen a few butterflies this summer, including a random monarch or two. I wish I knew what this guy is. I initially mistook it for a leaf. The legs and body are fuzzy, like a moth, but it has its wings folded like a butterfly. Anyone know?

The Betty Corning clematis experiment is half fail, half successful. I didn't get the tuteur moved early enough for one, plus I did not provide it with stable support, so now it looks like it is crawling toward the redbud. Another problem is some critter hides underneath it, so the dogs are always nosing around there.

The other BC is doing what I hoped, except this particular variety of clematis does not get tall enough to twine through the tree branches. I will have to rethink this experiment. (Sorry for the poor pic - it was a bit too sunny for quality photography.)

I have tried repeatedly to get some butterflyweed established, even purchasing a variety that is supposed to do well in clay soil. One problem is it is easily overwhelmed by its neighbors, which is my fault. It needs a little elbow room. (In the background are the black hollyhocks.)

I could try to convince you that these hollyhocks are a new variety known as "Lacy Leaf". I plant hollyhocks for two reasons: the blossoms yield a lovely natural dye and the plants act as a trap crop for Japanese beetles. Success on both counts.

As if my bum hip weren't enough, I caught a summer cold (THANKS, JANINE!) and now it is unbearably hot out. A few minutes standing in the sun chatting with my neighbor just about gave me heat stroke. It's a bit too dry (didn't think I'd be saying that after our wet, wet, wet spring) but not so dry I am watering anything... yet.