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Actea rubra

A garden of mostly native plants created by a plant addict

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Adirondack Homestead Garden

I went with friends to visit a garden in the Adirondacks yesterday. The main (dirt) road divides the property in half:  The house with chicken coop and upper gardens and the lower part of the property with vegetable gardens and a brook. It is always wonderful to visit other gardens and see what style of garden the gardener prefers as well as what plants they like.

The house from the veggie garden 

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This garden is about 40 minutes from where I live , but was approx two weeks behind in terms of plant growth.

The lower veggie garden and greenhouse

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This was really a homesteader type garden with fruits and vegetables to sustain the household and the gardeners' love of flowers was also evident.  All in all it was a really charming garden in a very picturesque setting and was a great way to start the day

The Australorp chickens 

 

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As a gardener I can't think of many things I enjoy more than visiting someone else's garden

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8:12 am est

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Public garden picture day

Not a lot to write about today-too tired. We worked at the Hovey Pond Gardens today as we do each wednesday from April to October.  Summer is winding down , but lots of plants are at peak bloom right now.

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Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)

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 New York Ironweed in Bloom (Vernonia novaboracensis)

P1000432.JPGcloseup below

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 Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans)

P1000438.JPG hardy Hibiscus  (Hibsicus moscheutos)

P1000433.JPGA view through the center of the garden

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 If you want to see some great hummingbird pictures head over to my friend Greg's Wild Ginger garden blog  http://www.wildginger-greg.blogspot.com/  Greg also works at the Hovey Pond Gardens. He may have other shots of the garden above such as the triangle bed which he planted with spectacular annuals this year.

 

 

 

 

1:19 pm est

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What's blooming? Finally

Stuff that should have started blooming almost a month ago

Mexican sunflower (Tithonia sp.)

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And Peacock Lily (Acidanthera bicolor) , which is a very easy to grow bulb that is related to the Gladiolus

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3:54 pm est

Friday, August 21, 2009

Life after people prelude

My office is located an old shirt factory building that has been adapted for reuse into galleries, shops and offices. Yesterday while getting a cup of iced tea in the teashop upstairs, I glanced out the window and noticed that an unused section of the parking lot was quickly growing into a jungle of vines.  The most noticeable vine looked like a squash or pumpkin.  My first thought was that seeds from someone's nearby vegetable garden had been dropped here by birds.  When I left for the day I walked up close and realized most of the vines were a type of wild cucumber.  I knew that this wasn't the wild cucumber I am most familiar with (Echinocystis lobata) The leaf was broader and more pubescent.  It was a close relative , the bur cucumber (Sicyos angulatus).  You'll notice in the pictures that it seems to be the dominant vine.  Some of the other plants growing here are Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) and Wild grape (Vitis riparia). 

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Bur cucumber , along with its relative Wild cucumber are used by birds and small animals who eat the seeds.  The fruit is inedible for humans, but a decoction of the the vine was used by the Iroquois to treat venereal disease (which by the way was introduced to the new world by Europeans).  It was also used by the Iroquois as a feed mix for herd animals having a difficulty birthing young.

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I think this colony of tangled vines must be a rich feeding ground for the many birds living here in the city and it also provides shelter. The picture reminds me of a Kudzu infestation as it begins its climb up the red plow truck that will not be started or moved until the first snowfall of the season. Underneath all of this growth is a chain link fence and numerous wooden pallets. It reminds me of the TV series Life after people. This is merely one seasons growth and it is not hard to imagine how quickly nature would reclaim its own if we were no longer here.

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12:04 pm est

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Downy Skullcap

In an earlier post I mentioned that yellow is one of the dominant garden colors of late summer, but so is blue in varying shades: Asters, New York Ironweed and Monkshood will soon come into bloom.  One of the blues that's already blooming is Downy Skullcap (Scutellaria incana).  This native is found from New York to Michigan and south to Texas and Florida. It is a really beautiful plant and another on my list that seldom gets eaten (here) by deer. It is hardy from Zones 4-9. 

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Downy Skullcap was used by the Cherokee as a nervine and for childbirth.  In the early 20th century Materia medicas it is listed as a remedy for colds and upset stomach.  It seems very popular with the bees.  I like it simply for its ease of cultivation: It thrives in my poor dry sand with little care. It is also quite simply just a really pretty shade of blue at a time when blue is required to contrast with yellow. 

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11:47 am est

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bulbine frutescens

This is one of my all time favorite houseplants and annuals.  I first purchased a small pot of this plant about 5 years ago as an annual for the garden and decided to overwinter it indoors.  It thrived on neglect and even bloomed a little bit during the winter.  As it grew bigger I put it in a large blue ceramic planter to play against the bright orange blossoms. In the winter I now bring it to my very sunny office. Bulbine is hardy to about 20F (approx Zone 9). If you leave it out in the fall when the temps are in the 40F range the foliage turns an interesting reddish brown color and the plant suffers no ill effects.

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Bulbine is native to the Cape region of South Africa, where it is apparently used just like Aloe vera to treat cuts scrapes, burns and insect bites. It blooms here from summer into fall and last year was still blooming at Halloween.  The flower stalks are wispy and sway with the wind (It must look great in its native habitat with grasses). It is heavily utilized by pollinators in my garden and heavier ones like bumblebees have to stay in flight to feed as the stalks bend with their weight. Visitors to the garden always ask what this plant is and I always send them away with divisions which are simply broken off the plant and planted in a pot or in the ground. I fill in bare areas in the garden by using this method and by summers end one can have quite a substantial bulbine plantation. If you want an easy , very pretty plant to grow this one fits the bill!

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11:37 am est

Monday, August 17, 2009

Indian Pipes and Climate change

It has been an odd year with the wettest July on record in our area just past and also the 3rd coldest on record.  Many plants have bloomed late including some of the composites.  One plant I always look for in June in our predominately Hemlock woodland is the Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora. This plant at one time in its evolution was capable of photosynthesis and still has the vestigal leaves to prove it.  At some time in its duration on earth it found it more advantageous to become a saprophyte and give up the chlorophyll.

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I hadn't seen any Indian pipes at all until yesterday as I was dragging some branches into the woods.  The appearance time for these plants is typically anytime from June until August with individual plants showing up at different points in the season, but here on our property they have always appeared in June and that is when I typically look for them.  Still I am glad that they are here even in August.

Indian pipe sap was used by Native Americans to treat eye ailments.  A related species Beech drops (Epifagus virginiana) is associated with forests in which Beech (Fagus grandifolia) is found.  Our climate is changing rapidly with spring typically coming later and fall lasting about a month longer-I really hope that the plants are able to adapt for their sake and ours.

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8:32 am est

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cardinal Rule

Cardinal Rule:

Cardinals love places in the garden to hang out.  I bought this folding support from Gardener's supply this spring to grow cucumbers on. I grew the cukes from seed right in the ground and they did nothing until a few weeks ago when the heat arrived. I would see chickadees and titmice and phoebes perching on this structure, but no larger birds until yesterday.  I was sitting at my desk and saw this young male cardinal show up.  He stayed for about 5 minutes just hanging out.

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We are lucky to have two pairs of Cardinals nesting near the garden.  Sometimes they squabble over territory, but most often they bring their young to feed in the garden.  I've seen this male around the garden for a few weeks now and he is just getting his adult plumage.  It was very cool to see him just hanging out in the vegetable garden

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8:57 am est

Thursday, August 13, 2009

HoneyBees and Gardens

In the depths of the long winter past I went to a beginning beekeeping class with two friends. It was a 4 hour class and I realized that something was amiss when we arrived and found out that there were almost 40 of us and that bathroom at the Beekeeping supply store where the class was being held was out of order.  We were told we could go to the McDonald's down the street if we needed a restroom.  The class was abysmal: poorly coordinated, all over the place in terms of subject matter and my friends and I realized that we were wasting our time.  We had come prepared to buy hives and bees and left discouraged without buying anything about an hour and a half before the "class" was finished.  I wanted to raise bees because my garden has an abundance of nectar.  There are numerous pollinators already here: Mason bees, Bumblebees, hoverflies, mining bees and of course butterflies and moths. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and a volunteer at the public gardens where I also volunteer asked about possibly putting some of his hives at the public garden.  Because of the potential liability we couldn't let him, but I offered to let him try a hive in my garden.  The hive arrived early one morning and the bees could be seen at the entrance.

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 I watched for a few days as they slowly explored the garden and also watched to see if there would be any hostility from the very large bumblebee population here.  So far so good, all of the pollinators appear to be happy and peaceful.  About a week later I noticed that the honeybees were regular visitors to my large terra cotta waterlily tub.  They come in shifts of 3 or 4 , drink , leave and are replaced by another group.  I keep the tub topped off for the birds and have benches on this terrace for sitting as well as numerous potted plants.  The honeybees are very gentle and not bothered by my activity around them. Next year I think I will be buying a hive after all.

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1:28 pm est

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Rudbeckia "Herbstonne"

August and September are definitely the months of yellow in the garden (by the way I have heard some gardeners complain about two much yellow in the garden-no such thing) . Most of the yellow composite flowers are blooming like Helianthus  "Lemon Queen" Rudbeckia fulgida , Helianthus maximilianii-Maximillian's Sunflower ,which by the way can reach 12-15", Rudbeckia triloba-that wonderful biennial with hundreds of mini black eyed Susan flowers and Rudbeckia X "Herbstonne" 

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 Rudbeckia X "Herbstonne" is a German cultivar of an American plant.  Herbstonne means autumn sunshine and this plant lives up to its name blooming for 2 months or more.  One year it started in July and I still had sporadic flowers in October.  It is a wonderful addition to any garden and can reach heights of 5'-7'.  Some botanists classify it as a cultivar of Rudbeckia laciniata, while others believe it it is a cross between Rudbeckia nitida and Rudbeckia laciniata.  I think it is a hybrid of the two as Rudbeckia laciniata, which I also have in the garden prefers moister conditions than Herbstonne, while nitida will withstand dryer conditions. If one of the parents is laciniata, at least it didn't inherit the rampant character of the cultivar "Golden Glow" which tends toward invasiveness. Birds such as goldfinches love the seeds and the flowers are a hotbed of pollinator activity. It is also very winter hardy and I know of gardeners in Zone 3 who grow this plant without any difficulty. This plant tops the list of my favorite perennials.

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9:47 am est

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Wild Senna

This is one of my favorite perennial natives Wild senna (Cassia hebecarpa or Senna hebecarpa)

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Although this plant is herbaceous, it has the appearance of a woody plant in the garden.  It blooms in mid to late summer and is a legume.  Because it makes its own nitrogen, it does not need fertilizing at all. Feeding can result in dieback or blackening of the foliage.  usually it will not kill the plant but make it unsightly for the rest of the growing season.

P1000324.JPGIn the wild, Cassia grows in thickets or moist areas and I have often seen it along the Hudson river. I almost never claim ANYTHING is deerproof, but I am fairly comfortable in making that assertion with Wild senna.  Why?  It was used as a laxative by Native peoples, thus Bambi avoids browsing this plant for obvious reasons.  In fact I have never seen damage on it. If you have please let me know.  I use Cassia in my own garden in borders and as part of a hedgerow I have that screens the road.  Pea pods follow the beautiful yellow blossoms and if you don't cut the stalks down until spring, the pods click and clack in the fall and winter winds.  It is a great architectural plant and hardy to Zone 3.  It is late to emerge in the spring so be patient.  Once it sends up shoots growth is fairly rapid.

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8:58 am est

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tassel Flower

This wonderful little flower is the Tassel Flower (Emilia javanica).  It is a fast growing annual and a bright flower for any garden.  I absolutely love the color!

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 Tassel flower is native to Asia and I'm guessing from the species name javanica, from Java.  It was first introduced into cultivation in the west in 1799 in Britain. It was grown by Thomas Jefferson in his garden at Monticello.  Here it self sows a little bit, but I could see in warmer parts of the country where it might be too prolific. Here in the northeast it is a welcome addition to my garden with its cheerful blooms. It blooms all season until the frost kills it.  I first saw this plant at the Montreal botanic gardens (about 2&1/2 hours from here) about 8 years ago. Myself and my friends, who were nursery owners, had no idea what it was. We collected a few seeds from some of the spent flowerheads and grew them the following year.  I came across a picture of it by chance looking for info on another plant and the mystery was solved.  This is one of those annuals I grow every year.  The flowers are visited by small pollinators like hoverflies.

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5:23 pm est

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Insect pics

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Just a couple of shots of Steel blue cricket hunter (Chlorion aerarium ) , a Sphecid wasp on short toothed mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum).  I love the mountain mints because they attract so many pollinators and they also make a great tea.  Other plants the cricket hunters love are Threadleaf milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) and any of the Sea hollies (Eryngium spp.)  but I haven't been able to get a shot of them on these yet this season. I'm sure another wasp, the mud dauber will be showing up soon as well as they like many of the same plants.

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The cricket hunter lays it eggs in crickets and other insects and the larvae feed on that host.  the adults are nectar feeders and love flowers. They can give a nasty sting if you try to handle them, but are otherwise inclined to keep feeding and ignore you.

4:31 pm est

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Harbingers of the changing season

I was out in the garden last evening and noticed that the light is changing as the sun drops a bit lower in the sky.  I also noticed that the spotted jewel weed (Impatiens capensis) is blooming on 3'-4' tall plants. This makes the hummingbirds happy, but lets me know the season is winding down just as we start to get some summer weather after months of rain.

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 The White snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum) is also blooming. This Joe Pye relative  is  responsible  for the death of President Abraham Lincoln's mother Nancy Lincoln. In the 19th century many people died from milk sickness caused by milk cows ingesting this plant.  When the milk was consumed or meat from the cow eaten the sickness began as trembles, nausea, vomiting and coma or death.  It was not until 1928 that the plant was identified as the culprit after thousands had died. 

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Its dark history behind us, it is worth noting that it is a beautiful plant and one well received by pollinators.  When August arrives and the light levels begin to change and these two plants begin to bloom , I find my thoughts already gravitating toward September and anticipating the coming bloom of the Asters and Goldenrods.

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6:28 pm est

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Scarlet Sage

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I love Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea).  Each year I buy a whole flat of Salvia coccinea "Lady in Red" to spread throughout the garden. Salvias in general are known to repel ticks due to the presence of volatile oils known as diterpenes.  Terpenes are found in many plants, the best known being terpentine which comes from conifers such as pines (Pinus spp.). I scatter Lady in Red all through the garden and put many of them in the vegetable garden.  Besides their tick repelling abilities , I simply like the color and shape of the flowers. Even on rainy days (this was the wettest July ever on record in our area) the Salvias work their magic by attracting Hummingbirds.  They are worth the effort of replanting each year and I cannot imagine gardening without them.
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Salvia coccinea has a natural distribution from Texas east to South Carolina and oddly enough there seems to be a small population in one county of Southern Ohio. It has grown in popularity in recent years and I think has a much more refined appearance than Salvia splendens which has long been used as a bedding plant.
11:05 am est


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