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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday Interloper

Columbine Meadow-rue with Columbine
On the right in this picture, does everyone recognize the red and yellow flowers of Aquilegia canadensis, a native columbine?

On the left in this picture, does everyone recognize the purple flowers of the Wildflower Wednesday interloper, Thalictrum aquilegifolium, a non-native flower known as Columbine Meadow-Rue?   It's from Eastern Europe/Asia.

I consider it an interloper because it is growing in an area of the garden where I thought I had planted only native woodland plants, dug up several years ago in an area of a woods which was going to be dammed up to form a large 15 acre lake.

That's the only reason I was madly digging up some wildflowers from the woods and moving them to my garden.  They were going to be flooded out, forever.  Never dig up wildflowers unless there is no other hope for them. Ever.

Thalictrum aquilegifolium is not a native wildflower.  So, it was either an invasive species in the woods or I bought it and planted it in this general area.  I can't remember. I'd have to look through boxes and boxes of plant tags to figure it out.

Someday, I will.

In the meantime, I do like the foliage of Columbine Meadow-rue, I won't lie about that.
Columbine Meadow-rue foliage
It is light and airy and almost fern-like, not unlike columbine.  Hence the species name "aquilegifolium".

It makes me wonder if this meadow-rue had been found and named first, would columbine have been named "thalictrumfolium"?

Something to ponder.  

Once I figured out that Columbine Meadow-rue is not a native wildflower, I changed my mind on allowing it to go to seed and scatter itself about.
Columbine Meadow-rue flowers going to seed
Instead, I will dead head it and watch it closely so it doesn't crowd out the true columbine foliage in the garden.

Columbine foliage
We should always be watchful of interlopers, making sure to check the invasive plant list for our area before adding new plants to our gardens, even those we buy at the garden centers.  The nursery trade does not always keep up with the invasive plant lists for all areas, so some invasive plants can still be purchased.

I checked Indiana's list of invasive plants and did not find the Columbine meadow-rue on it, so I'm keeping it.

But I'm watching it.  And I'm going to dead-head it to keep it from spreading.

If you'd like to read more about wildflowers, check out Wildflower Wednesday, hosted on the fourth Wednesday of the month by Gail at Clay and Limestone.

Monday, May 26, 2014

I forked my beans to keep the rabbits away

I forked my beans to keep the rabbits away from them. 

Some may look at this fortress of forks and think it looks ridiculous, but it really does help protect the tender bean shoots from being mowed down by a bunch of marauding, toothy, ravenous rabbits.

I also forked my pepper plants, but not before the rabbits bit off three of them.   

Overall, I am pleased with how the garden is growing so far this season. 

Except for the rabbits eating the three pepper plants, or rather biting them off and leaving the stem on the ground as though they are some kind of gang marking their territory, the wildlife have more or less left the garden alone.

Well, except for the strawberries. Some birds have been pecking at them.  I'm too trusting of the birds. They sing from the trees while I work in the garden and I think how nice it is to have birds in the garden. All the while, behind my back, they are pecking away at my strawberries. And to think I have black oil sunflower seed, the good stuff, in the bird feeders.

I should really cover the strawberries.

Other than those few little problems, and some inexplicable dying of a stem on one of my apple trees, the garden is doing well. I will have to conjure up memories from way back when I was in college to figure out if the dying stem is due to fire blight or apple scab, or maybe the branch was damaged and just died?

Let's turn away from the problems and note what's right about the garden, shall we?

Looking to the east, you can see the peas are blooming, even though threatened by strawberry plants intent on world domination, of at least that one raised bed. Too bad for them, though, because I won't let them grow much further.  The lettuce in the next bed is looking good, and tasting good, too.

I need to eat more lettuce.

Oh, to have such problems.

At the other end, looking to the west, you can see the tomato plants all planted and staked.  I drive two foot stakes of PVC pipe into the ground as far as I can using a mallet, and then stick those spiral stakes in the pipe.  This provides a good, strong stake to support the tomatoes, which I intend to grow to heights never before achieved in my garden.

Hope springs eternal in a garden

Now, I just need to clean out the narrow bed that runs along the fence and plant some zinnias, marigolds and sunflowers there, and my garden will be all set to be My Best Vegetable Garden Yet. 


How's your vegetable garden?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Summer Reading Head Start: Rosemary Verey

A few weeks ago, three weeks ago as a matter of act, I was sitting in a restaurant at the airport having a little brunch of scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, and fried potatoes before jetting off to Savannah for a long weekend.

Cricket-chirp, cricket-chirp, cricket-chirp... I got a call on my iPhone from a number I didn't recognize.  I swiped to answer and listened to an automated message about my flight to Atlanta being delayed for 30 minutes.

I did a quick time calculation in my head and determined I would still have time to make my connecting flight to Savannah.  I continued eating my brunch and the waitress refilled my glass of iced tea.  I watched the television monitors, reading the closed caption news.

Cricket-chirp, cricket-chirp, cricket-chirp... I got another call on my iPhone.  I swiped to answer and listened to an automated message about my flight being delayed for another 30 minutes.

I did another quick time calculation and decided I would have to move quickly to make my connecting flight to Savannah but as long as the gates of arrival and departure were pretty close, I'd be okay.  I paid for brunch and headed to my departure gate, where I found one of the last seats in the waiting area.  I sat down to wait.

Cricket-chirp, cricket-chirp, cricket-chirp... I got a call on my iPhone.  I swiped to answer and listened to the inevitable automated message about my flight being delayed another 30 minutes.  I did another quick time calculation and realized my flight would now arrive in Atlanta about three minutes after my flight to Savannah took off.

I checked in with the gate agent to determine my options.  Yes, she confirmed I'd likely miss my connecting flight, but I would be on stand-by for the next flight and confirmed on the flight after that, in case there was no room for me on the next flight.

Fast forward to Atlanta.  The plane I was on touched down and was taxiing to the terminal just as my connecting flight pulled away from the gate. I got off the plane and proceeded to ride the train to the next concourse to check on my stand-by flight.   I was eighth on the list for a stand-by seat.

"Should I just go on to the next concourse for my confirmed flight", I asked the gate agent.

"No, just stay right here."

I dutifully stayed right there and watched as the passengers boarded the flight.  I checked the monitor overhead and saw I had moved from eighth to fifth on the stand-by list. Ahead of me were four passengers who wanted to fly together, who were willing to wait for the next flight.  My chances seemed pretty good.

Finally, the gate agent said she could get us all on the flight. I grabbed my bag and rushed up to the gate to get my new seat ticket. I was delighted to be in seat 5A.

Once on the plane, I found myself seated next to a woman who smiled and did not seem all that bothered that she had to get up to let me get to my seat. We began to engage in the usual polite chatter of two strangers sitting beside each other on a plane going to the same city.  She was going to her vacation home. I was going to meet up with friends to see gardens.

Gardens.  The universal ice-breaker. The gateway to a multitude of topics.  Doesn't everyone know something about gardens or gardening even if they don't garden?

She had a friend who wrote a book about the legendary English gardener, Rosemary Verey. Did I know about it?  She showed me the book on Amazon on her iPad. I did not know about it.  I made a mental note to look up the book as soon as I got home.

Fortunately,  I remembered this mental note.  The day I returned home, I looked up the book - Rosemary Verey: The Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener by Barbara Paul Robinson (David R. Godine, 2012) -  and bought it.  After all, if fate puts you on another flight next to someone who has a friend who wrote a gardening book, isn't it because you should read that book?

I'm nearly finished reading it. It's fascinating.  British, biography, and bits of gardening, all rolled into one book.

Halfway thru reading it, I  checked my own library of gardening books. Surely I should have a least one book by Rosemary Verey, who wrote 18 books.  Yes, I have The Art of Planting.  I'll read that next. Then I'll look for good used copies of a couple of other books by Verey. 

I suspect this is going to be the summer of reading books by Rosemary Verey, unless another rabbit hole opens up.  Queue up some music by Elton John. 

Just get on with it.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Dear Friend and Gardener - A Postcard

Veg Garden May 18, 2014, Early Morning

Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

I haven't written for a while for our Dear Friend and Gardener series. In fact, I haven't written a "Dear Friend and Gardener" update since it snowed on April 16th.

Life is busy in the garden in May, so I just have time for a quick postcard update.

First of all, there were no lasting impacts from the snow in mid-April - I didn't think there would be. I am happy with how the garden is growing now. 

The picture above is my postcard for you. It was taken in mid-morning and the day was a bit sunny so sorry for the weird lighting.

The peas are climbing up their supports, but are not yet blooming. But, I'm pulling radishes and harvesting lettuce now, some of the best I've grown.   We had a cold week just past, so I waited until this morning to finish planting out peppers and tomatoes. Later this evening or tomorrow, I'll sow seeds for green beans, squash, corn, okra, and cucumbers.  I forgot to buy some eggplant, so I need to stop somewhere after work tomorrow and get some, or my garden won't be complete.

I'll provide a better update once the spring planting is done. I'll also tell you about a wonderful biography I'm reading.

Here's to gardening!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - May 2014

Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis
Welcome to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for May 2014.

Here in my USDA Hardiness Zone 6b garden in central Indiana, I am delighted with each bloom, each leaf, each sprout that returns after one of the coldest winters on record. I do believe our snow cover saved many a plant.

There is a general sense, too, that those plants that survived the winter are greener, have more blooms and seem stronger for the experience.

The blooms are still just a tiny bit behind past years, but considering what they went through, I am happy to wait for each and every bloom.

I noticed walking through the garden that I like flowers with bell-shapes. I cannot imagine ringing in spring without Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis. It's an old favorite, going all the way back to when I was a kid and picked them in my grandma's garden.

Other "bells" almost blooming include variegated Solomon's Seal, Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum 'Variegatum'.
Solomon's Seal, Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum 'Variegatum'
and of course, Bleeding Heart, Lamprocapnos spectabilis.  (Love those new botanical names, don't you?)
Lamprocapnos spectabilis
I still think columbine, Aquilegia sp., are some of the prettiest flowers around.
Aquilegia sp.
I could show you dozens of pictures of single and double flowering columbine in bloom now, but I think I'll just stick to this diminutive columbine.  I bought it years ago and am working on getting it to self-sow in the garden.

Elsewhere in the garden, the first of the clematis is blooming.
Clematis with gillyflowers
I'm sorry I don't know which Clematis it is. I do now the flower below is Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Bath's Pink'. I like calling dianthus by their very English common name, gillyflowers. They smell fabulous, by the way.

One would think from the pictures so far that my garden is awash with whites, pinks and purples and it is.  I do have some blues mixed in, including Spanish bluebells, Hyacinthoides hispanica.
Spanish bluebells, Hyacinthoides hispanica
Just down that path, there is also a touch of yellow from some jonquils.
My guess is that these jonquils are the variety 'Baby Moon'.

What else is blooming in my garden? How about lilacs and Amsonia, Carolina allspice and Deutzia, Alliums and strawberries, plus my big old-fashioned snowball bush, Viburnum opulus 'Sterile'.
Viburnum opulus 'Sterile'
I love this big shrub. It provides great cover for birds, bunnies, and garden fairies and reminds me of my grandmothers who had similar shrubs in their gardens.

How about your garden? I'm sure you have all kinds of blooms in the month of May. We'd love to have you share them with us! It’s easy to join in for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Just post on your own blog about what's blooming in your garden right now, outdoors or indoors. You can include pictures, lists, common names, botanical names, whatever you’d like to do to showcase your blooms.

Then leave a comment and put your name and a link back to your bloom day post in the Mr. Linky widget below. (This month, I'm using a different version which should prompt you to upload a thumbnail image from your blog post. Use that to showcase your best bloom and further entice us to come and virtually visit your garden.)

Happy Bloom Day!

We can have flowers nearly every month of the year.” ~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Sunday, May 11, 2014

All hands on garden!

With each walk through the garden, I see them.  Weeds. Dead branches. Plants in trays and black pots.

I'm going to need all hands on garden this week to get this place in shape so I can go on relaxing garden strolls and sit in the garden chairs without remorse, regret or guilt for what I haven't done yet.

All hands on garden.  It's like a rallying call for spring.  There's no turning back now.  Those weeds aren't stopping. Those dead branches aren't going to go away by themselves.

Well, those dead branches are going to go away by themselves, but it won't be pretty.  They'll eventually break off, fall on some prized plant, and then slowly over the years be attacked by insects, bacteria, fungi, and other micro organisms the likes of which you don't want to know about, until they are gone. In their place will be a little pile of compost.

And plants in black plastic pots and trays don't plant themselves.

Well, those plants in black plastic pots and trays sometimes do plant themselves. Out of desparation they send roots out through the drain holes in the bottom of the pot and seek ground to grow in.  It's not pretty or optimal, but sometimes it is oh-so-necessary for the plant's ultimate goal which is to root itself in a good garden.  Public service announcement -- please plant your newly acquired plants as soon as possible.

All hands on garden.  Winters really gone now. Spring is here.  Spring is like a puppy who has figured out she has four legs and if she wants to run, she can.  And she's running now, heading toward Summer.   We'd all love to catch her, hold her, and sit with her in the garden.  But Spring won't allow that. Spring wants to run. So for now the rallying call is...

All hands on garden! 

Monday, May 05, 2014


This picture is supposed to remind you of a forest.
I suddenly have an urge to train chipmunks, wild chipmunks, destructive chipmunks, garden-wrecking chipmunks, how to eat out of my hand.

Would you like to know why I have this urge to train chipmunks, wild chipmunks, destructive chipmunks, garden-wrecking chipmunks, how to eat out of my hand?

Thanks for asking.

The other day, I was browsing through the books in a used book stores, in the section marked "Interesting and Old" or something like that, and found a copy of The Years of the Forest by Helen Hoover (1973).

(Personal note... Sigh. How can a book written in a year I remember end up in an "Interesting and Old" section of the bookstore?)

I thought it looked reasonably interesting, so for three dollars, I bought it.

The author, Helen Hoover, who was trained as metallurgist during World War II, moved with her husband, Adrian, to a cabin in the remote woods of Minnesota and lived there for many years.  They didn't have a plan on how they would make a living once they got there. They just decided to move there and figure it out.  Hoover wrote seven books, mostly about living with nature.

In this particular book, The Years of the Forest, Hoover explains how they got the chipmunks to eat out of their hands, to come running up to them begging for food every time they stepped outside. 

Here's how Hoover did it:

"We could hardly keep the kitchen door closed all summer to please the chipmunks, so I began to stand motionless outside after I distributed the food. This was acceptable in a short time. Then I moved my hands a little, and later walked about very slowly. Finally I sat with corn in my hand and my fingers resting on the stones. After reconnaissance, a daring individual ventured to take some of this corn and beat a hasty retreat. Within a few days the adventurer and what must have been all his relatives and friends rushed to the door whenever Ade or I went out and sometimes hopped onto a boot toe to look up in a most appealing way." ~ Helen Hoover, "The Years of the Forest", 1973

I have not actually decided if this is what I really want to do, but at least if I do decide to try to train chipmunks, wild chipmunks, destructive chipmunks, garden-wrecking chipmunks, how to eat out of my hand, I have instructions to follow.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

It's May in my garden

It's May in my garden.

The crocuses are just a memory now, and the early Daffodils have gracefully begun their exit as we welcome more tulips into the garden.

Fresh green leaves seem to come from nowhere over night as each tree and shrub dons their best spring attire in every shade of an all green rainbow. 

It's May in my garden.

The apple trees are blooming,  calling out to the bees, luring them in with promises of nectar and pollen.  If the bees succumb to the temptation of an apple blossom, and how can they resist, I'll have crisp apples by late summer.

It's May in my garden.

The common lilac begins to open its buds, releasing the scent of spring into the night air.   The scent is so strong, I can almost smell it from the other side of the garden.

It's May in my garden.

All year I dream of the days of May, when the sun is warm, the sky is blue, the grass is green and the garden is all new again. 

It's May in my garden. 

Let the season of the garden begin anew.