Saturday, August 29, 2009
Adirondack Homestead Garden
8:12 am est
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.
house from the veggie garden
This garden is about 40 minutes from where I live , but was approx two weeks behind in terms of plant growth.
lower veggie garden and greenhouse
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
As a gardener I can't think of many things I enjoy more than visiting someone else's garden
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Public garden picture day
1:19 pm est
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.
partial view of the
garden from the east
Great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
New York Ironweed in Bloom (Vernonia novaboracensis)
Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans)
hardy Hibiscus (Hibsicus moscheutos)
A view through the center of the garden
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.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
What's blooming? Finally
3:54 pm est
Stuff that should have started blooming almost a month ago
Mexican sunflower (Tithonia sp.)
And Peacock Lily (Acidanthera bicolor) , which is a very easy to grow bulb that is related to the Gladiolus
Friday, August 21, 2009
Life after people prelude
12:04 pm est
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).
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.
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.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
11:47 am est
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
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.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
11:37 am est
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.
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!
Monday, August 17, 2009
Indian Pipes and Climate change
8:32 am est
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.
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.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
8:57 am est
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.
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
Thursday, August 13, 2009
HoneyBees and Gardens
1:28 pm est
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.
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.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
9:47 am est
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
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.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
8:58 am est
This is one of my favorite perennial natives Wild senna (Cassia hebecarpa or Senna hebecarpa)
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.
In 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.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
5:23 pm est
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!
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
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
4:31 pm est
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.
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.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Harbingers of the changing season
6:28 pm est
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
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.
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.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
11:05 am est
I love Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea
). Each year I buy a whole flat of Salvia coccinea
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.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.