Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Almost Wordless Wednesday

 Lillies, helianthus, and silene regia, which attracts hummingbirds

Pink yarrow, coneflowers, helianthus, and silene

The helianthus really needed to be cut back since its stems had grown too tall, but the pollinators love the flowers so much I didn't want to bring them inside. Taking inspiration from GardenWalkGardenTalk, I stuck them in my watering can and left them outside.

 'Pilgrim' ornamental oregano

 Anthemis 'Susanna Mitchell' grow in a pot next to my carrot farm. 

 Broadleafed mountain mint (Pycnanthemum)

 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Final Lesson

I wondered recently how I would change my garden if I could. My house and garden sit on barely over a 1/4 acre in a congested suburb, my little world like a plump kernel on a bursting cob. Summer nights are lit by the glow of a neighbors big screen TV instead of fireflies and I've run inside to pick up a ringing phone that wasn't my own.

'Coral Reef' monarda

I imagined closing off one of my fence gates and building a pond. I'd lay field stone paths and take out a bit of grass. I'd create a garden that was private and restorative, insulated from the push and swell of neighboring life. If I had more space, I'd build low stone walls and cloister my suburban prairie.


But as much as my garden is my refuge, it is also my most enduring lesson. I live less than two miles from the school where I teach and many of my students are my neighbors. When I teach my unit on water ecology, I often use my garden as an example. We discuss the hazards of too much nitrogen and talk about what's in the run off that pours into the storm drain next to my house. I brought in water from the creek across the street to prove to my students the effect of fertilizer on oxygen levels. I explained to them that the water was so low in dissolved oxygen it no longer supported life and the class went silent.


It was futile to pretend I lived elsewhere. "If you've noticed that my grass looks weird right now, " I challenge them, "it's because it's covered in compost." The kids, all 11 or 12, look away sheepishly. They don't want me to know that they know where I live or that they saw me bring in the newspaper in my bathrobe. "And the big blue flowers by the front porch? Those don't get any chemicals, either."

I like to flatter myself and think that my students will remember my class, but I know many will not. My words will cascade like confetti from brains overloaded with stimuli and expectation. But what I've created will last. Perhaps if they see my garden enough times, it will affect their choices as adults. If I can become a part of their environmental awareness, that is enough.

Pink 'Endless Summer' hydrangea and 'Mardi Gras' dwarf glossy abelia

The 'Pearl d'Azur' clematis is still blooming. Tall native pink obedient plant, phlox, and daylilies hide its skinny ankles and provide color til fall. Pink hydrangeas and variegated dwarf abelia are so beautiful in the summer I don't mind how pathetic they look all winter. The abelia closest to the daylilies always devlops its varigation last.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Projects, trips, and a wee bit of gardening

Between finishing up everything that needs to be done to close out the school year, as well as jumping head first into a big ripping-out-the-carpet-and-repainting project, I haven't been around much the last week. I've missed reading all your blogs!! There is still a ton of work to do, so it will be another week before I'm back in the blogosphere. If we do half the work, the contractor only charges us half as much. That's not math I can argue with. Plus, we've scheduled in a trip to Baltimore to see our favorite band, U2. Oh yeah!!!

Thanks for all your wisdom about my dahlias. They are on the mend, despite my having done nothing except get my slugs drunk, and squish some borers. I'm sure those evil stalk borers are in the process of morphing into some other bug with plans of devouring my garden! Grr...!!!

As I write this Baby and Chance have paint in their fur, Scout is staring longingly at my coffee, convinced it tastes like chicken, Genie (the Weenie) is hiding from the paint cans and newly exposed subfloor, and Lucy, the dog in my profile picture, is patrolling the garden for squirrels. What do you get when you combine 5 dogs, 4 people, and 8 yrs of wear and tear with light colored carpet? A hideous mess!!

"I can't believe you said that!! I would never make a mess!" - Scout

Here's a quick peek at the garden before I go:

The swamp milkweed is already about 4 ft tall. That's my reward for finally planting it someplace...swampy. 

I think this little aster is called 'Alert'. It's well named since it started blooming in early June!

The monarda has started blooming. The pink is 'Coral Reef'. The monarda in the lower picture are a hodgepodge of 'Jacob Cline', 'Violet Queen', 'Claire Grace', and 'Raspberry Wine'.  Giant Joe Pye weed grows in the very back.



Happy hostas

Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer'

 'Fragrant Angel' coneflower

 Heliopsis 'Tuscan Sun' and a past-their-prime purple stachys hummelo

White gooseneck loosestrife are beautiful but invasive. But their flowers are so cool I put up with their philandering ways.

 My mystery tomato is thriving! The penstemon in the back pot fell over in a wind storm and are now growing sideways. :o)

 I have no idea what the name of this coneflower is but I love its pinkish-orange petals.

I think it might be from the Big Sky series due to the quilling of its petals before they open.

Mystery coneflower with two types of heliopsis and a pale orange agastache

 We've had tons of rain lately after a hot/dry spell and the Dry Side bed is lush and full.

 Another mystery tomato - a gift from the compost angels.

 'Magnus' coneflowers with liatris, bird seed sunflowers, 'Maraschino' salvia, and verbena bonariensis. The big green patch behind the fence is my trumpet creeper taking over the neighbors yard. They don't seem to mind-yet! 

Southeastern native ruellia hummilis does well in dry shade but is also quite happy in dry sunny spots, too.

Native liatris squarrosa has much bigger, button-like flowers than the more common liatris. The pollinators love it! 
 When its stems start to grow, they curve into serpentine twists before rising vertically towards the sun.

I thought I had planted these 'Rocky Top' coneflowers in a sunny-enough spot, but they seem to feel otherwise. Both the 'Rocky Top' and the salvia 'Maraschino' in the background are leaning towards the agastche. Either a nearby tree is casting too much shadow or the rose campion in the corner is up to no good...  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Dahlia Dilemma

I don't have much experience growing dahlias, as in almost zero. But after spending the winter watching other bloggers post gorgeous pix of their dahlias, I decided to give one a try. Beautiful color pictures lined the shelves of our local garden center, each promising a dahlia more beautiful than the next. I grabbed a bag plump with promise and daydreamed of dahlias.

Dahlia 'Caproz Pizzaz'
picture taken from Squak Mt Nursery
The bag was labeled 'Caproz Pizza'. I should have known I was headed for trouble when I bought a flower named after a pizza!

They sprouted full and lush from spring rain and were promptly devoured by ravenous slugs. Armed with copper tape, I wrapped the plant in hopes of zapping the slugs as they made their nightly crawl towards my dahlias. The slugs were unfazed and the only thing I accomplished was making my plant look stupid. Perhaps the slugs would laugh themselves to death.

 Slug damage

 Highly ineffective copper tape
Even the salvia peeked over the edge of their pot to laugh at the dahlias.

In an effort to boost the local economy, I hired this gnome to put the squeeze on some slugs. Instead, he hid behind the copper tape and silently cheered them on. Into the bird feeder with you, O Worthless One!!!

Did I try a beer trap? Of course I did! However, I began to worry that my slugs weren't drinkers. As a matter of fact, I began to worry they were complete tee-totalers. Night after night, my trap remained empty. Anxiety and panic began to set in. Maybe they weren't tee-totalers at all! Maybe they were waiting for an apple martini or a full bodied Merlot. Frustration snuck quickly in and I took a hard glance at my spineless foe. "Wait a minute", I thought. "Them ain't no high class slugs!" I dug through the cupboard grinning mischievously and then headed to the store.

 My slugs prefer their beer in a sippy cup! I'm thinkin' they started their habit mighty early...

The cheaper the beer, the better. The slug death toll is almost 30 and rising. Drink up!!

But now, I am ashamed to say, I have met my match. It happens to all of us. The larvae of some dastardly creature has set up house in the stems of the dahlias. Using my highly scientific theory of "Just wait a bit and the good bugs will show up to eat the bad bugs", I waited. And waited. And waited. And while I waited, it munched, devouring my dahlias from the inside out, leaving piles of black frass to taunt me. It laughs at my beer, preferring well watered dahlia instead.

 The little white worms bore holes through the stems, leaving piles of dry black frass to mark their entrance and exit routes.

 In one end and out the other!

 I noticed this spot this morning. It's eating the cell wall of the plant.

Now it's after the flowers. The battle has begun!!

Have you any idea who the culprit might be?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Morning Garden

I slipped out quietly this morning, my bathrobe and pajamas announcing the hour, to photograph my garden. This is not a garden I see often and we met cautiously, like strangers. My mental clock ticked steadily as I watched the flowers, slump shouldered and sleepy, slowly open to greet another too-hot day. I lingered by the kalimeris, rolling their name across my tongue like a gumball and eyed the hammock hungrily. I imagined collapsing onto the cushioned surface and sliding back into sleep, lulled by birdsong to an easy slumber. I chugged my coffee and turned back towards the house, pajamas and garden clogs traded for heels and a skirt.

 Pale blue kalimeris and yellow columbine 

 Spigellia marilandica, a southeastern native

My neighbors sprinkler system keeps my spigellia well watered. Thanks!!

 This is small red daylily blooms profusely through out the summer. I can't remember its name.

 This yellow bloom is enormous! I planted it last fall and hadn't seen it's flowers yet. I bought it on faith after seeing the pictures on the huge plant tag. I'm glad I did!

 Annual purple gomphrena is a mainstay in my summer garden.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Weed Weed Tomato?

It's amazing what can pop up in your garden when you least expect it.  Tucked between my Westerland rose, a lost liatris, and a vigorous clump of verbena I found a tomato plant. I'm serious! Bent over pulling grass and invading trumpet creeper shoots, I suddenly  had this deep and profound thought. It went something like this, "Hey, that looks like a tomato." However, not having bought a tomato plant or even any seeds, I yanked it from the soil and threw it unceremoniously into the grass with the rest of the weeds.

At that point, my Holy Sh*t! alarm went off, so I grabbed the plant and took another look. It's a tomato plant probably from a tomato that was fed to the worms that created the compost that is currently fertilizing my Westerland rose. In their coffee grind fueled sex-sleep-eat-poop existence, they forgot to eat a tomato seed and my mystery tomato was born.

Phase One: Complete denial that there's a tomato growing next to my rose. I took this picture after I had pulled up the tomato plant, which explains why you can't see it. It's not there.

Phase Two: Stick the tomato next to the carrots and thin out the carrots while keeping an eye on the tomato to see if it morphs into anything else, like an eggplant, or a beaver.

Phase Three: Buy a pot, more soil, and transplant tomato. Wait for actual tomatoes to appear....