Sunday, May 31, 2020

Share and share alike

My neighbor across the street, the one who blows my driveway and lends me his truck, asked for a rhubarb plant since he knew I was downsizing the garden. I was happy to oblige and threw in a dozen half-pint canning jars to boot. He responded by giving me a jar of tomato powder. He has made good use of the dehydrator I gave him several years ago (I used it maybe twice), and that includes the reduction of tomatoes to dust. It's a good way to add some tomato flavor and a thickening agent to sauces, or so he says. I'll have to try it out.

As promised last time, I hung out the hummingbird feeder, but only after spotting a hummer in the front yard. Deciding on a location was tough - sun vs. shade, less than 5' from a window vs. more than 15', viewable or not, etc. Initially, I hung it near the compost bin, just outside a window I can view while on the computer. That might have been too hidden, plus sometimes my indoor/outdoor cat perches on the bin. (Sorry for the reflection in the window in the pic below.)

I moved it away from the house but that was too far away, plus the view was blocked from just about everywhere. Now it is under the elm tree. I can watch it from the deck or the "exercise room" (spare bedroom where I do my physical therapy exercises), far enough from windows to discourage collisions, in an area more open but not too open. I don't usually see many hummingbirds until June - that one last week may have been an outlier - and it has been cool lately. Hopefully, they will come soon.

Several (20+) years ago, I laid a clear plastic tarp on the lawn, ostensibly to dry it out. Within a few hours, it had nearly killed the grass. So when I edged a bed along the fence on the south side of the house, I figured clear plastic tarp would be helpful in eliminating the grass and weeds growing there. NOT. Instead, the plastic is acting like a greenhouse. I'm guessing the sunlight is not intense enough to overheat the contents. I will have to switch to black plastic. Or dig out the grass and roots by hand, something I was trying to avoid.

I am amazed at how fast morning glories grow and provided them with a little help by placing trellises nearby for them to climb. Besides the 'Scarlet O'Hara', I planted seeds from my SO's morning glories, which are the traditional blue. I hope they climb all the way up to the top of the pergola.

I have never grown strawflowers, so decided to see what they are like. These are Mohave Dark Rose Bracteantha, or something like that. 'Mohave' is trademarked.

I also planted some sweet basil and English thyme. My cooking has become rather basic for the most part, but I still like some fresh herbs now and then. Also in this pic is a volunteer silver maple seedling. I have been toying with planting it in the backyard but for all the negative aspects of this native tree. Even though it is a fast grower, I will probably be long gone before it becomes a real problem, but STILL. I hate to create a problem but I also hate to throw away a perfectly good plant.

Today I started some zinnias and sunflowers in a tray of peat pots. The zinnias are Cut and Come Again Mixed Colors and Big Red, the sunflowers Mammoth, all from Burpee by way of Home Depot. We were properly masked while there and found the masks to be uncomfortably hot. Can't wait for July and August.

Oh, and I was wrong about being wrenless. The bird house is occupied.

Sunday, May 24, 2020


We have received a LOT of rain recently, not enough to be a problem, at least for me, at least not NOW. The new storm drains appear to be working as planned. In other words, no more lake front property after each downpour. Yay!

The hawthorn tree is blooming, as is the 'Wentworth' highbush cranberry, both in snowy white. The pink cotoneaster is popping now that the creeping phlox is done. There are a few volunteer columbine and what I now know is dame's rocket, an alien invasive that we are supposed to irradicate... but it's so pretty!

One annual I managed to plant so far is some red morning glory, 'Scarlet O'Hara'. While waiting for that to actually produce some flowers, I will *finally* put out a hummingbird feeder, as those pugnacious creatures should be showing up any day now.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to do in the yard, then stymie myself with "But first..." when the but-firsts never get done. This year I am just going to do something, anything, as the mood hits. As long as the front yard looks tidy enough....

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Fit to be bit

I purchased a new Fitbit, the Charge 4, to replace the One. The new one has some fancy features, including the ability to determine what kind of activity one is engaged in. If I left the One on while mowing with my riding mower, it counted over a thousand steps. (I don't roll the lawn, so it is rather bumpy.) The Charge 4 counts that time as "outdoor bike riding". That is one slow bike ride!

Several years ago, I purchased an oriole feeder, and just this month set it up with some homemade nectar. Alas, either there are no orioles to lure or else it is too late for nectar. Orioles carb load with nectar while migrating, but during the rest of the season, prefer fruit and mealworms. For those two foods, I will need a different feeder. I'll contemplate that while I set up the hummingbird feeder I found in the back of a kitchen cupboard. I'm sure it was a gift, as it doesn't look like something I would pick out, but I have NO memory of how it came into my hands. Anyway, the hummingbirds should be making an appearance in a couple of weeks. I hung up the wren house and although I have heard wrens nearby, they are snubbing me this year.

Yesterday I did get the new coleus, Solenostemon scutellarioides, planted in the flower box on the front porch. It's been a while since I've purchased coleus at a nursery as I usually keep one as a mother plant for the following year's brood. Apparently, there are coleus varieties for SUN now. The ones I purchased are Proven Winners Colorblaze Golden Dreams, grow 24"-36" tall, in sun to shade. That should be perfect for the front porch, which gets hot sun in the morning, then shade the rest of the day.

The redbud trees and the purple sandcherry are fading while the chokeberry and the blackhaw viburnum are coming on strong, as are the bleeding heart and volunteer columbine. The smokebushes are slow to leaf out, hope they are okay. And the 'Betty Corning' clematis has already gotten away from me.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mow, mow, mow your yard

The weather is a bit iffy, but one can tell it is spring by the sounds of lawn mowers, mine included. I fertilized the front yard with compost and spot treated the dandelions, but otherwise leave it to its own devices. The wild strawberries are starting to bloom there, as well as an errant grape hyacinth or two.

I (finally) fenced off access to the north and south sides of the house by the dogs. The north side is relatively unscathed; it's where the hosta bed is. The south side, alas, has multiple holes dug along the foundation, presumably done in the pursuit of chipmunks. People say chipmunks ruin foundations, but I am thinking it is whatever is pursuing the chipmunks that does the damage.

I was going to just dig up this whole area and move in ornamental grasses, but there are still some remnants of the prairie sampler I planted there several years ago, mostly asters of one sort or another, and little blue stem and probably some other stuff. I can still move in the grasses while I decide what to do with the rest; one of the grasses is northern sea oats, which will spread to fill in any gaps I make.

The mystery shrub from several weeks ago has a cousin growing in the hosta bed, so it must not be the spice bush I was hoping had survived. Mulberries pop up here and there, in an unending succession, but I think this might be a silver maple? I welcome all guesses. This particular speciman will have to go, as it is too close to the house. The other one I may let go for a bit, as it is located in a gap between the service berry and high bush cranberry. I eliminated all the silver maples from my yard many years ago, but sometimes regret that I did not keep one that grew at the back of the property, as it would provide a significant amount of shade by now. I'm not a fan of silver maples, but they are native and they grow fast.

Speaking of growing fast, I am very impressed with the Triumph elm tree I planted in 2016. It looks like it is almost as tall as the tulip tree planted in 2009 (?). It's growth habit is more vertical and is leafing out much more than the tulip. I simply love it.

My SO and I managed to catch a nice day and spent it at Spring Lake Woods and Bog. There were not a lot of spring flowers yet besides hepatica, but it wasn't too boggy, so we had a nice stroll.


Fungi of some sort

Indiana is in the midst of a slow reopening. I have appointments for a dental cleaning, a haircut, and a massage this week... fingers crossed. Each site has protocols in place to make it as safe as possible, for employees and clients. I was able to visit a local nursery this past week, to get some coleus and a few other annuals. We'll see how it goes. Strange times.