Saturday, July 31, 2021

We went to the animal fair...

My SO and I took my granddaughter to the county fair this past week. She seemed a bit bored, but I get an inordinate amount of joy checking out the animals. In a previous lifetime, I kept chickens, cooked rabbit (I called it "chicken surprise", with the surprise being it wasn't chicken), raised a couple of goats, etc. So while we avoided cow patties and refrained from petting any of the critters until after we ate some carvival food, I reminisced about my livestock experiences.

Or two sheep or one cow

At one point, I considered creating a mini-farm after retirement, with mini animals (pygmy goats, miniature donkeys, bantam chickens, babydoll sheep, etc.), but that is not the kind of thing one can do solo. Also, finding affordable land meant moving quite a ways out of town and I've become accustomed to the convenience of city life.

While researching how best to control flopping of tall perennials, I came across several references about how ironweed never flops. HA! Even in full sun, I've seen it lean. Along this fence, the plants probably do not get as much sun as they would like, which would be one contributing factor. The other may be that the soil is too rich, even though I don't fertilize.

We had another hot week, so mowing and trimming and a bit of weeding were the order of the day. Next week promises to be absolutely lovely, temps in the 70's with lows dipping into the 50's. It does not feel like we are on the cusp of August.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

High floppability

The natives planted along the fence on the south side of the house are blooming... and flopping. I like them tall but not when they lean across the path I take with the lawn mower. The ironweed plants have inverted tomato cages to keep them somewhat upright, but the coneflower and rudbeckia need some help. There is a new edition of Tracy DiSabato-Aust's book The Well-Tended Perennial Garden; I have an older copy, maybe should check out what's new. Perhaps the pruning techniques will help. If not, a fence of some sort, one that won't obstruct?

I took advantage of the lovely weather this week to finish edging around the shrubs and the hawthorn tree out front. While I was at it, I removed the protective hardware cloth, snipped suckers, pulled weeds, etc. I also propped up the false indigo just in time for the lawn treatment guys. Then there was the pruning of redbuds and viburnum. My SO helped with the latter, thank goodness; my shoulders won't let me operate the lopper.

The mid-to-late summer perennials are going at it. I *love* the cup plant patch, as do the finches. The plants are at least ten feet tall.

In front of the cup plant is a clump of silvergrass with the additions of coneflower, rudbeckia, daylily, and aster.

Volunteer sunflowers mingle with rattlesnake master and big bluestem.

Besides volunteer sunflowers, there are some volunteer morning glories growing in containers. Some vines that I thought were morning glories are something else, bindweed or something like it, so those have been eliminated. I'm trying to help the actual morning glories with a trellis; it's too short, but that isn't stopping them.

Does anyone know what is wrong with this clump of aster? I think the browning of the lower leaves can occur when there is too little rain, but we have had plenty of that.

Another problem we have had plenty of are Japanese beetles. I plant hollyhocks as a trap crop, but this year the little buggers have ignored the hollyhocks in favor of coneflowers and zinnias. Boo.

I hear cicadas, have found one husk and seen one flying around, but we must not be Brood X country. My son lived in Bloomington IN during the last emergence and says they were quite the nuisance down there. What's been your experience?

Saturday, July 17, 2021

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone....

Or so the weather forecast promises. It has been rainy all week, with just enough breaks to break one's heart. Consequently, I have done next to nothing in the yard besides mow and trim between the showers. The coming week looks delightful, though: lows in the 60's, highs in the low 80's, sunshine. Hopefully, I will be able to beat back the jungle that I euphemistically call a garden.

This fungi is not growing in my yard, but is a good indicator as to how damp it is.

This post showed up on my FB feed:

Besides depriving birds of their food, mosquito spraying does not discrminate between mosquitoes and other insects like pollinators. The bee population in my yard is much lower than it was before the "Bite me" signs appeared around town.

The Crimson King maple in the front yard does not look quite as full as it has in the past. Several other specimens in the neighborhood have succumbed in recent years, but mine has always looked healthy... until now. I looked up some info on Crimson Kings. They are a variety of the Norway maple which lives to be 250 years... in Norway. In the US, life expectancy is arouind 60 years. If my tree was planted when the house was built in 1973, it has been in the ground nearly 50 years. I don't know when they start counting the age of trees, but I'm hoping mine lasts a bit longer; a slow grower, it is finally casting some decent shade.

The natives planted along the fence are blooming a bit more. The cup plant patch is getting there, too. Zinnias in pots are almost ready to open. The orange "ditch lilies" are doing their thing. Hopefully, this week I will get to do mine.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Come on, come on

That's what I think every time I look out my bedroom window at the native plants along the privacy fence. There are a few coneflower, ironweed, and rudbekia just starting to flower. I'm inpatient to see them all in bloom.

Last fall, I purchased some "hardy" mums. In the past, I have planted such specimens in the fall, but they don't do well, pooping out before they can bloom again. This time I left them in their pots and overwintered them in the garage. They looked pretty pathetic by the time I brought them out into the sunshine, but perked up after a while. Yesterday, I transplanted them under the purple leaf smokebush; I plan to interplant some Stella d'Oro daylilies with them. In preparation for this effort, my granddaughter helped me expand the edging around the smokebush. (When a task involves a lot of bending, she is quite handy to have around.)

I also expanded the edging around the 'Golden Spirit' smokebush, as I plan to interplant something like coral bells with the 'Autumn Joy' that is there now.

Other plans include pruning the highbush cranberry that is taking over, obscuring this honeysuckle vine. The vine climbs over the fence; my neighbors actually like it. I want to plant more honeysuckle vines along the back fence, where I can see them better. But first, I have to get rid of the trumpet vine I regretfully planted there.

There are alot of volunteer sunflowers growing wherever I don't mow, including this row. I assume they are from the bird feeders. If I can't fill the feeders for a while, at least I can provide some alternatives for the birds.

The 'Betty Corning' clematis is done, but 'Avant-garde' is at its peak. The sweet autumn clematis has almost reached the top of the pergola already. There are a lot of volunteer morning glories from last year right behind it.

Saturday, July 03, 2021

Weed, weed, weed

Have you noticed that the more one weeds, the less one needs to? Earlier this season, I attacked the now unwanted Northern Sea Oats growing out front. They are difficult to uproot, so they grow back. I attacked them again today, but apparently the previous attack worked better than I realized. Now I just have to remember NOT to pull the sea oats growing along the south side of the house (which are doing very well).

The past two days, while the temps are moderate, have been spent attacking not only the Northern sea oats (which have started forming seed heads) but the Canada thistle as well, which is starting to bloom. The corner formerly known as "The Meadow" is rife with thistle; dealing with that bit of real estate is scheduled for next season, so I just keep whacking down the thistle there. Elsewhere, I pull it. I *think* I am winning this war,compared to previous summers.

The temperature this morning was so moderate - 55 degrees at 7am - I cleaned up the area under the rhododendron. What had been keeping me from that chore was a couple of bee/wasp nests in the ground between the rhododendron and the purple leaf smokebush. But early in the day, before the sun warms things up, they sleep in. Just as I finished with my yardening chore, they woke up and started foraging for whatever it is they consume. Win, win.

The so-called meadow has grown a lot of common milkweed the past few years. Last fall, I cut it all down, which apparently is how one gets rid of common milkweed, as only a few plants survived. That's okay because I just can't decide what to do with that corner of the yard, turn it into lawn or follow through on the original dream of making it into a meadow. If the latter, I should probably spray the thistle which would be hard to do without also spraying anything else growing there. Decisions, decisions.

One of the surviving milkweed plants growing through a squirrel baffle

Apparently, I've become an art collector of sorts. A cheap one, but a collector nonetheless. Last fall, I purchased some pots from one local potter. Last week, I came across another pot that I just had to have.

I am drawn to what may be called "functional art" - not only is there visual pleasure but usefulness, too. I haven't decided what to plant in this pot yet. It's about 4" tall. Any suggestions? Maybe cacti or succulents?

Besides weeding, I've been wrestling with fencing. There are several wood fence panels behind the Big Bluestem beds, to discourage the dogs. I needed some 4' rebar to keep them upright, which required trips to three big box home improvement stores. Then there are the circles of poultry netting and hardware cloth that I somewhat anally surrounded all new trees and shrubs with in the past, whether it was necessary or not; some of that was removed. I freed the new grass growing in the shade next to the deck from its protective layer of fencing, as I think it can withstand some dog traffic now. Wrangling all these bits and bobs have left my arms and legs dotted with mini puncture wounds. It's been only 8 years since my last tetanus shot, so I think I'm okay.

The birds seem a bit confused by the missing feeders. The purple leaf smokebush is simply *spectacular* this year. The coneflower is starting to bloom, as is the iron weed and bee balm. I removed the last of the purple leaf sandcherry - it looked too pathetic. And from where I am sitting in the den, I can see a tall specimen of Canada thistle I missed.