Sunday, December 31, 2023

Goals for 2024

It's a little embarrassing to sift through old blog postings and see how many "resolutions" I failed to stick to. At least, my plans for 2022 panned out - redoing the landscaping - and I have stuck to eliminating invasives in the yard (although they keep trying to stage a comeback). Some goals have been abandoned because, frankly, they are too much work. There are a few things I would like to accomplish this year, though.

One disappointment in planting natives (or at least, the natives I now have) is they are not very showy. I think the simplest thing to do is to fix that with annuals, specifically zinnias, at least in the front yard.

Once upon a time, the "meadow" was a milkweed forest. I whacked that, thinking I would transplant perennials from other parts of the yard there. Now I am inclined to revert that area to milkweed. Hopefully, I will see more monarchs then.

I've attempted to grow shrubs and vines in containers, with minimal success. Two small butterfly bushes and a Clematis Paniculata are all that I have left, and next summer I plan to transplant them into the ground. I think they will be much happier, which will make me happier.

Three is a charming number, so I think I will stop there.
  1. Plant zinnias in the beds in the front yard
  2. Recreate the milkweed forest
  3. Transplant container perennials into the ground

There has not been a lot of bird activity in the backyard, but yesterday this hawk was pecking at something in the driveway. Worms?

And on today's dog walk, a heron made an appearance near the neighborhood pond. I couldn't get closer because, well, the dog.

Here's wishing you a Happy New Year. May all your gardening dreams come true!

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Something new - floating farms

Locally, there is a big hoo-ha about someone wanting to create yet another "party boat" business on one of the three rivers that run through our fair city. Wouldn't it be amazing if our local people-in-charge would expand their thinking to include something like, say, floating farms?

The local paper ran this article about floating farms. What a unique idea! Each neighborhood along the water could have its own mini-farm market, geared for their culture and tastes. That would be forward thinking, instead of the same-old-same-old.

In other local news, the paper's gardening columnist wrote about how difficult it is to grow Norfolk pine (which isn't really a pine). I was a little surprised, because while mine doesn't always look its best, it does pretty well.

Otherwise, not much happening here. The grass is still rather green, but at least it is not growing. More birdfeeders are out - safflower and a "wreath" of various avian delectibles. While I haven't done as much backyard birdwatching as in the past, today I spotted a black capped chickadee and a downy woodpecker. Oh, and murmurations of starlings - beautiful but GAH!

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Another lesson learned

If you are going to shop for xmas decorations, it is best to do that by Thanksgiving. Otherwise, everything will be picked over. Ditto presents.

Hand-me-ups from my daughter

My daughter is a bath and kitchen designer, and she is also picking up how-to's along the way. This weekend she replaced the faucet on my utility sink. Quite the Handy Ma'am! And it involved only one trip to the hardware store. (I looked at a YT video on how to do this and decided it involved too much crouching under the sink.)

Ooh - shiny!

This past week, some of the birdfeeders went up: whole peanuts, peanut splits, sunflower seeds, millet. There hasn't been much avian activity yet, as the weather has been rather mild (in the 50's and 60's). I have seen both blue jays and bluebirds, though. And sparrows.

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Lesson learned

Today - cold, windy, and rainy - seemed like a good day to sanitize the bird feeders. Using the utility sink, I worked on the smaller ones, cleaning them and spraying them with a 10% bleach solution before rinsing them off. That was fine. But the big one I use for sunflower seeds was too large for the sink and too heavy to manipulate (my glasses nearly broke when the hinged lid fell and hit me in the face) and a real mess. I've already disconnected the outside hoses, but I'm going to reattach one and finish bird feeder cleaning outside. Next year, I promise to do this task earlier and outdoors.

The problem with the heated bird bath was the GFC outlet. It had tripped, but I kept trying to reset it wrong. Now that is fixed. I didn't want to have to buy a new birdbath, as they cost about twice what I paid for this one.

Having a heated birdbath seems moot this week, as temps promise to be in the 50's. That means the ground won't stay frozen and I will have dog paw prints everywhere. Who do I complain to?!?

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Word of the week

Dehiscence means "the splitting or bursting open of a pod or wound". Milkweed pods are a perfect example of the former; I don't really want to picture the latter.

I frequently mention that I do my fall clean up in the spring, but there are also some chores that have to be accomplished now: moving the potted perennials and such into the garage, storing the patio furniture, cleaning out the bird houses, sanitizing the bird feeders, etc. It has been cold enough for the bird bath to freeze over, even though I plugged in the heater. I don't know if the problem is the outlet, the extension cord, or the bird bath itself. One of these days, I will have to check that out.

Here are the installed flamingos. I hope the neighbors are aghast. Online I found an artificial xmas tree that looks like a palm tree. Wouldn't that make the perfect backdrop?

Today it is snowing, and the snow is sticking... sort of. Later in the week, we expect rain, so this smattering won't last long.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Road trip

Sorry for my absence. It's been a couple of busy weeks, climaxed with a weekend trip out of town. My little family has started a newish Thanksgiving tradition: gathering the weekend before Thanksgiving. Then my kids can do what they wish on the actual holidy, be it spend time with in-laws, hunker down at home, etc.

I rent a place (sometimes AirBnB, sometimes VRBO) near where my son and his girl friend live, and the rest of us traipse up there for a couple of days of eating, shopping, hiking, etc. I've abandoned cooking the traditional turkey meal, so we mostly eat out. No one complains (or they don't dare).

This time we drove down to the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area to view the sandhill cranes. There is an observation deck, but that's as close as one can get to the birds (unless you are one of *those* people). There were *thousands* of them, filling the air with their gargling calls. We may go back in the spring, as that's when they execute their mating dance.

Since it was close by, we stopped to see the Dunn Bridge, which runs over the Kankakee River. My son is into bridges, especially covered bridges, while my daughter, a newish kayaker, eyed the river for a possible adventure.

As you may have noticed from previous posts, my yard art consists primarily of plastic pink flamingos. Recently, I've added red, white, and blue flamingos for summer display, and black sparkly ones for Halloween. My son and his girl friend found some xmas ones, which they presented to me this past weekend. I'm tickled (flamingo) pink!

I don't have much holiday decor, but I may have to get a spotlight or something, to showcase these latest additions once they are outside.

Sunday, November 05, 2023

Good riddance, DST

Once upon a time, when it seemed the rest of the world was adopting Daylight Savings Time, Indiana did not, ostensibly because of the cows. Dairy farmers, who frequently had "day jobs", did not want to confuse the cows with shifting milk times. There aren't many dairy farms around anymore, and someone decided we should be like (almost) everyone else and suffer through a time change twice a year.

Before adopting DST, during the summer, Indiana time differed from Ohio and Michigan time, which some locals found confusing. After DST, we joined the Eastern Time Zone year 'round, which means that it stays light until 10pm here in eastern Indiana. Fireworks display times shifted from 9pm to after 10. I had to buy some dark, heavy curtains for the bedroom windows. And to me, a morning person, the days felt shorter, not longer.

Several times I tried to stay on standard time, but that gets confusing when the rest of the area is not. I've tried shifting my mealtimes, but the tyranny of the clock seemed to defeat that. I spent years complaining, but now try to keep my opinions to myself unless asked. And even though I sometimes say, "Just pick one or the other, Daylight Savings or Standard Time, and stick to it," I really prefer to have morning light.

With morning light, the days feel longer, the evenings shorter. I get going sooner while still finishing my day by supper. I feel more productive, more energetic, more "normal". But I know I am in the minority. Per usual. End of screed.

Back to the yard. We finally had a hard frost this past week. We even had snow flurries on Hallowe'en. Still, many trees, like my neighbor's ornamental pear and my Japanese maple, cling tenaciously to their leaves. The environs still look green, including the lawn, which I continue to mow. I like to mow, but this is getting to be a bit much, even for me.

This fungi that grows on the oak mulch is not listed in my mushroom book; I had to use Google Photo Lens to identify it as Diplocystis wrightii. There is a type of mushroom known as a Fairy Ring mushroom, but this is not that.

Diplocystis wrightii "fairy ring"

Diplocystis wrightii, up close

The winterberry holly shrubs that are in the back of the yard are covered with red berries, the ones nearer to the house are not. Similarly, the witch hazel bush that I had planted years ago is in bloom, while the ones planted last summer are not. The first example may be due to a microclimate - perhaps too much shade at a critical time? - while the latter is a puzzlement.

Witch hazel, in bloom

Witch hazel, up close

An opussum ventured onto the deck the other evening, apparently checking out the pets' water bowl. The dogs went NUTS - that creature was only feet away, but on the other side of the patio door. When I let the dogs out at night, for their final pee, I turn on a flood light, then the light by the patio door, then let one dog out, then the other, all in an attempt to give the local wildlife a chance to run and hide.

Have an escapist week.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Fall colors

We finally had a light frost, followed by what used to be referred to as "Indian summer" - the last of the warm days (one assumes). The sweet potato vines are kaput, except for the one in the flamingo planter. Almost everything else is in autumn mode.

The catmint decided that all the warm weather we have been having means that it should bloom some more.

The serviceberry is putting on a show.

The 'Limelight' hydrangea has reached its pink stage.

The northern sea oats are past the copper stage, now a solid brown.

The swamp oak looks more robust leaf-wise than last year.

Sean from Sanctuary Natives returned to replace the butterflyweed that did not survive its first year. He says he doesn't often get to revisit installations, so we took a brief tour of the yard. Something that I don't think he realizes is that all his planning of what plants to put where will eventually come to naught, as the nodding onion, penstemon, and columbine will spread willy-nilly. I don't mind, just as I don't mind the grape hyacinth, 'Dragon's Blood" stonecrop, volunteer violets, and other plants that have hung on, despite the upheaval from last summer. They are all welcome.

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Mums the word

In the past, I have purchased "hardy" mums and planted them in the ground, but they were not all that hardy when it comes to Indiana winters and rarely survived. This year I purchased a few to contrast with the aromatic aster. Next year I will plant something like yellow Profusion zinnias, which are shorter than most zinnias. There will be all-season color PLUS contrasting yellow come fall.

Last Monday I saw a bald eagle soaring over the neighborhood. That was a lovely sight. Several crows complained nearby but didn't get too close.

We still have not had a hard frost (or even a soft one) yet. There are lots of green tomatoes on the plants, but the cool nighttime temps have left them and the sweet potato vines looking a bit grumpy. Not too many leaves have fallen yet; the city leaf pickup dates have had to be shifted to accommodate climate change. And so it goes.

Monday, October 09, 2023

Cool and rainy, just how autumn should be

I won't let anyone complain about the cooler temps or wet weather, since it is a vast improvement over the dry 80-degree days that immediately preceeded this change. I still have a tendency to overdress, but I have started to change over the bedding from summer mode to winter mode - first the fleece blanket, next the flannel sheets, then the wool duvet. Aaah!

Speaking of autumn changes, the red, white, and blue flamingos have given way to the Halloween ones. I wish these glowed in the dark. Maybe I can paint them with some luminescent acrylic? My son and his girl friend are on the lookout for some winter flamingos. Otherwise, the yard will be sans flamingos until spring.

This sad bean is the total harvest from my experiment of growing bush beans in a container. One of my mistakes was not using a deep enough container. Another mistake was leaving the container where critters could reach it. I'm not sure if the culprit was a rabbit or a raccoon. Next year, I will do better. (My son's comment was, "Charlie Brown would be proud.")

This critter on my doorstep is a giant crane fly. I don't believe I've ever seen one in my yard before.

The carpet of sunflowers surprised me by blooming. I haven't noticed too many pollinators enjoying the late display. We are past our usual frost date, so I'm sure these are destined for an early death.

The goldenrod is at its peak. If you look closely, you will notice the plant tags in front of and between each goldenrod plant. Those are where the new aster plants are. May they and the goldenrod co-exist in peace.

While I hope my tulip tree survives the winter, I have a plan B in place: two red maple trees to take its place. I might even plant a third one on the other side of the yard. As far as I am concerned, one can never have too many trees. Yes, they drop their leaves in the fall. But look who benefits! (I credit my leaf mulch for bringing back fireflies to my backyard.)

(I don't know the original source of this poster)

Usually, I mow around the trees, breaking up the leaves but leaving them to nourish the trees. Or else the mower blows them onto the mulched beds. Either way, they decompose naturally.

Speaking of mulched beds, one of my dogs has taken to digging in the mulch and eating something - grubs? cicada larvae? I wanted to cover the mulch with bits of fencing (poultry wire and hardware cloth) to deter him, but I couldn't find much. Then I remembered that it was already in use as a dog-deterrent - it makes up a haphazard fence around the rain garden while those plants get established. Apparently, when one has dogs, one never has enough fencing.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

STILL not autumn

Ordinarily, we would be expecting some overnight frost by now, but instead we are getting MORE temps in the 80's this week. Ugh. At least it rained, so today I plan to install the asters. And mow.

The tree service came to fertilize the tulip tree. The technician did not seem very optimistic about the tree's chances. I worked keep it alive all summer, so I hope to prove him wrong. We will have to wait until next spring to find out.

The 'Solidago Fireworks' goldenrod is finally starting to bloom. This variety is supposed to form clumps instead of spreading rampantly. I'm hoping this is true, as the asters are going in here.

When I chat with other gardeners, I'm a bit surprised so many of them start their fall clean-up prematurely, even cutting back perennials while they are still green. These folks seem to be looking at the calendar instead of the plant or the weather, and they think their yards need to be neat and tidy, even the parts that are hidden from public view. I might be more self-conscious about my yard if the privacy fence didn't block judgmental eyes from the "worst" of it. And my neighbors *are* judgmental. I think it is a Hoosier trait.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Dead and dying

There is not a lot happening in the yard these days. No rain, so I have been watering. Too dry to mow, although the 'Crimson King' maple tree in the front yard is dropping its leaves. (I mow leaves instead of raking them.) Yesteday was the first day of autumn, but the weather is not cooperating.

Dry or not, dog poop still needs to be picked up. While completing this task, I came upon a dead chipmunk, literally belly up. No apparent trauma, but then I didn't inspect it closely. It could have been the victim of two critter-chasing dogs, or maybe a hawk dropped it.

Then, while filling up one of the birdbaths, I noticed a young raccoon lying on the brush pile in the corner, dead. The dogs killed a young raccoon earlier, which I found traumatic - the thing screamed like a cat - but those two can't reach the area around the brush pile. Maybe an owl dropped it? Some vultures were checking it out the other day, but it's still there. I'm letting nature take its course.

(I am of two minds regarding the dogs killing trespassing wildlife. On the one hand, I wish they wouldn't. On the other, without their vigilance, my property would be overrun by vermin.)

That houseplant I showed you a couple of weeks ago, the one that supposedly needs very little care, made a liar of the seller. The poor thing looks a bit bedraggled. Crassula 'Buddha Temple' succulents are prone to root rot, but they *do* need to be watered periodically. I hope the good soaking I gave this guy revives it.

Not everything is dead or dying around here. The aromatic asters are coming on strong, attracting pollinators and even a few butterflies.

I haven't planted the new asters yet - the ground is so hard and dry - but I may not be able to wait much longer. Even though I keep them watered, they won't last forever in their current state.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Memory lapse

It's bacon-lettuce-tomato season, with fresh tomatoes from the garden. I sent my son a pic of a sliced tomato, and he asked about the variety. Um, good question. Usually, I blog about plant varieties when I purchase them, but not this time. Since I bought them from a local nursery, there is no email confirming my order. I did manage to find one plant tag - 'Early Doll' - but it was on the ground and not in the pot, so while I know one variety, I'm not sure which plant it goes with. Very unlike me.

I don't want to repeat that mistake, so here is a photo of the asters I plan to plant with the goldenrod on the north side of the house. The variety is Aster 'Eventide'. The tag also says "Michaelmas Daisy". Not sure what that is about. They are from Bluestone Perennials.

It's been a bit dry around here lately, but the temps have moderated. I haven't run the furnace, even though the house is a bit chilly in the morning. I also haven't started switching the bedding to winter mode yet, which I do in stages, as the forecast is predicting some 80 degree weather later in the week.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Not so hot

I'm hoping last week was our last hot spell for the season. The forecast looks promising in an early-fall kind of way. This wonky weather has left me feeling off balance, like I can't count on things moving forward in a logical meteorological way. A single outfit doesn't last the day.

A little catch-up: a better photo of the goldenrod and a pic of the lavender colored aster that I think is smooth aster, a.k.a. aster laevis.

I had the landscape guys cut down a volunteer redbud that grew too close to the house, but it's ba-a-a-ack. I plan to try to prune it to a (mostly) single leader, to see if that helps keep it from becoming a nuisance.

Art fairs seem to be the hot thing right now. Some of them are meh, but my SO and I attended a couple of small ones yesterday. I could not resist purchasing this little fellow.

The seller couldn't tell me its name, but I think it is a Crassula 'Buddha Temple' succulent. Apparently, they require very little care, which is my kind of houseplant.

Have a carefree week.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

Water! Water!

We are having another HOT spell, and dry. One of the ninebark shrubs looked *really* thirsty, so I heavily watered all three of them, plus the Canadian hemlock, tulip tree, Japanese maple, and container plants. I'll repeat that protocol tomorrow. I don't water the lawn, though, and it is looking rather dormant.

The tall goldenrod on the south side of the house is blooming. I searched my emails and this blog for references to goldenrod and can't find any indication that I planted this variety. It is a welcome sight, nonetheless.

And some asters have survived. I believe this is New York aster, and there is some other variety of aster nearby, with lavender blossoms.

I have spotted a monarch butterfly or two recently, but that is about it. Maybe next year I will (deliberately) plant some milkweed, or the milkweed that is in the yard will spread.

Saturday, August 26, 2023


We had some brutal days this past week. Nothing like other parts of the country (and world) have been experiencing, but definitely too ick to spend much time outside. So today, partly cloudy with a high of 80, I took advantage of the lull and cut down all those sunflower plants. Now the yard doesn't look anything like the picture at the top of the blog. Since some of the heads had not yet been picked clean by the birds, I hung them over the privacy fence for final feasting.

One of the replacement Canadian hemlocks is looking a bit peaked. I moved the tree waterer to give it a good drink, hoping to stave off its demise. Technically, it is not covered by a plant warranty since it is a replacement, but maybe I can talk the native plant guy into it since I questioned the use of Canadian hemlocks in the first place.

I am eagerly awaiting the blossoming of the goldenrod. Too bad the rudbeckia choked out the asters on the south side of the house. I ordered some asters for the north side and am hoping they won't be overrun by the goldenrod there.

Today I also mowed and trimmed. Or rather, trimmed until the Ego trimmer ran out of power. Now I can't get the battery pack out of it. My hip is fixed, my shoulders are fixed, but I am now troubled by wrist and thumb issues. It's always something.

Have a painfree week.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

August isn't over yet

The temps have been rather mild lately, but that won't hold through the week. One more hot and dry spell and we might be done with August. Maybe since school starts earlier and earlier each year, the weather is adapting to match.

To take advantage of the relatively nice weather, I spent some time handweeding the beds in the front yard. Getting down low and up close at the same time brought me almost nose-to-nose with the seed pods from wild-ish violets that I let grow in my yard.

Seeds still in the seed pod

An empty seed pod and one that hasn't opened yet

Here is another reason to not feed birds in the summer: a carpet of sunflower seedlings under the feeders.

How about a brief walk around the yard?

Something ate one of my tomatoes. I'm guessing a raccoon. The rest are okay, thank goodness.

These late blooming hostas are overwhelming the earlier blooming ones in back, the ones my daughter keeps saying she wants to transplant to her yard.

The sunflowers are almost done. I stopped putting out sunflower seed, letting the birds forage a bit instead.

Of all the sweet potato vine plants I put out, this is the only one to do what I expected them all to do: vine. (I call this photo "Self Portait ala Vivian Meyier".)

And that is about all the garden news there is this week. Time to hunker down.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Non-natives killing the earth? Mea culpa

A columnist on the Washington Post claims that non-natives are "killing the earth". I can think of many other things that are more culpable than non-natives when it comes to ecology, so I was happy to find a post on the Garden Rant blog that rebuts the writer's broad condemnation.

There are all kinds of opinion wars about gardening. I recall being chastised for planting butterfly bush instead of butterflyweed because the former does not provide habitat for butterflies, only nectar. But don't they need nectar, too? And, so far, I have not had much luck with butterflyweed in my yard.

I tried growing a (native) oak leaf hydrangea, but the rabbits ate it. The 'Limelight' hydrangea thrives here, despite being native to China and Japan. What to do? I planted the 'Limelight'.

The "foreign" goutweed growing under the hydrangea is another issue. I wanted a groundcover that could withstand trampling. It can be invasive, but so far, the dogs are keeping it in check. Also, I cut back the seed heads.

At least I am not growing purple loosestrife, like a certain master gardener I know.

Let's leave that topic and look at some bugs!

I don't know what that bumble bee is doing in the video, but he looks busy.