JOURNAL: May 2017

The mailbox bed is home to wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Echinacea purpurea, Shasta daisies, maiden grass, three Sedum, Euphorbia and Yucca nearly blooming. The six-year-old snowball bush on the left, Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile,’ bloomed profusely, dozens of white softballs, for 10 days in mid-April. My neighbor likes it too. The white-flowered mullein in front, Verbascum thapsus ‘Governor George Aiken,’ is one of three seedlings planted three years ago–this is generally a biennial species.  It didn’t bloom last year but is off to an impressive start now. The other two sent up nine-foot velvety spikes of creamy, nickel-sized flowers in early June. The street gets hot; whites, pastels are cooling.

The yucca plant is exclusively pollinated by the yucca moth. The caterpillars of the yucca moth can only survive on the seeds of the yucca plant. These organisms co-evolved, a perfect example of mutualism.

Creek bed, back to front: two-year cutting from a wild elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), taken from the Burroughs Creek Trail under (rare now) snow in early January; the ultra-thorny, white-flowered ‘Darlow’s Enigma’ rose, just after first prolific flush of blooms–not convinced it repeats; and dark-leaved ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Seward,’ starting it’s third year at three feet tall, so far.

Front walk: The pseudo-shrubbery, with shaggy boxwoods and yews, hostas, Solomon’s Seal, Arum italicum Marmoratum, a dwarf red barberry (Berberis thunbergiiConcorde), and Virginia sweetspire, Itea virginica ‘Little Henry,’ in full, fragrant bloom.

Big pond: Back patio, facing north.

Big pond: Facing west from the top step to the back porch.

Past the pond and into the back garden. On the left, someday, sturdy raised beds; now, wheelbarrows, old boards, plastic pots… anything suitable. A new bean trellis is in progress–see the 4×4 in the center of the picture.

Looking to the southwest on the main path. Prairie dropseed, Sporobolus heterolepis, in the urn and below. Mexican evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa var. berlandieri, a thug in pink, in the foreground. The clump of pots on the left side contain a young Meyer lemon tree; three blue cultivars of Agapanthus; cuttings of Sedum spectabile ‘Blade Runner’ in the smaller pots; all under-planted with ‘Red Sails’ lettuce, orange pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis), and low-growing Zinnia ‘Profusion Apricot’ for the butterflies.urn bed 1

Urn bed: Looking north. Variegated upright basil ‘Pesto Perpetuo,’ Greek oregano, thyme, sweet william, red miniature roses, wild violet, purple coneflowers. The large, spherical seed clusters on the right are Allium christophii, about two feet tall and fading after silver-lilac bloom. The starry green shoots on the way up, bottom center, are ‘White Diamond’ lilies, ultimately four feet tall and highly fragrant. A rogue woodland tobacco, Nicotiana sylvestris, holds it’s ground, bottom right.

garage bed face east

The garage bed. Looking east. The seven-foot trellis will follow the line of the old 4x4s on the ground, ending next to that lucky peony that never blooms, center. Purple pole beans, Poona Keera and National cucumbers, bitter melon and Thunbergia alata will be the inaugural climbers. Lettuce and tomatoes in the cage on the right, soon joined by eggplants and basil, all grateful to be shaded from our merciless summer sun by the deep red ‘Carmencita’ castor beans coming up at the posts.

north pathA photo of ‘Carmencita’ castor bean, Ricinus communis, behind the banana on the right, taken two years ago. That one was about nine feet, with a heavy crop of bright red seedpods. The Ricinus clan–generally tall, dramatic and toxic–are very useful as shade for other plants, the degree of shade adjustable by pruning. It ignores intense heat, humidity and drought, though it does love regular water. Of tropical origins, Ricinus have strongly reseeded in my Zone 6 garden for the past five years.

garage bed face north

Garage bed, facing north.

garage bed face west

garage bed petunias

There are four flowering Jalapeno pepper plants spaced among the red Ultra Star petunias in the big pot on the left. That gaudy petunia was the first plant I grew successfully as a child. I haven’t grown it since, more than 50 years ago, and I’m very glad to have it again. Snow peas are on the trellis to the left, arugula and dwarf blue cornflowers below. Self-seeded tomato and castor bean on the other trellis, purple-podded pole bean seeds in the ground below.

main path dichelostemma

The tubular red flower on the right side is the firecracker flower, Dichelostemma ida-maia, a hardy bulb native to California and Oregon, averaging two feet tall. Behind it, the spire with yellow flowers is the moth mullein, biennial Verbascum blattaria, a potentially pernicious weed in some areas. It rarely shows up here so I welcome it’s company. The strappy daylily to the left is ‘Steeple Jackie,’ bright yellow blooms on six-foot scapes.

monty main path

Monty was four or five months old when he came here four months ago. He’s adjusting well.

pots caged

A major component of my rabbit defense program is the making of many dozens of chicken-wire cages. These protect lavender and hyssop seedlings, immediately devoured in the open last year. The bricks protect a variegated ‘Fish’ pepper from digging squirrels.

lilies peppers

Another prison pot containing, appropriately, Eryngium leavenworthii, and, in front, a seedling of red-flowered Petunia exserta, nearly extinct in the wild. The pot is flanked by ‘Spicy Bush’ basil, with ‘Chicago Apache’ daylilies and ‘Wyoming’ canna behind. The cage in the background contains ‘Scheherazade’ Orienpet lilies, ‘Danish Flag’ poppies and ‘Tennessee Cheese’ sweet peppers.

pots stumps

Hosta ‘Daybreak,’ ‘Isla Gold’ tansy, lemon balm and plume poppies, Macleaya cordata, jostle with wild knotweed, Polygonum virginianum. The pots on the stump contain golden creeping jenny, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea,’ and ‘Empress Wu’ and ‘Guacamole’ hosta.

little path face north

Left front, our native bee balm, Monarda fistulosa, delights the honeybees and makes a fine tea for humans. This bed also contains Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’–another excellent bug plant, blooming in autumn; dark red daylilies; Miscanthus grass; rue; true blue-flowered viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare, another good bee plant); lemon balm; catnip; and three plants of purple-tinged, spiky, seven-foot-tall ‘Malevolence‘ (Solanum atropurpureum).

urn bed wide 2

The same bed from the north side. The cages on the dinosaur kale were no protection from cabbage moths, now just a line of leafless stems. The pots contain ‘Winter Sunset,’ a Griffith Buck rose with apricot blooms; a three-foot bay tree in training; scented Pelargoniums and tarragon.

clematis sabotage

More depredation. Last year, rabbits chewed this newly planted Clematis jackmannii to the ground within an hour of planting.  In a fit of cat-inspired optimism, I removed the cage two days ago and noticed today that the vine, four feet tall with six fat buds, was wilting. Here’s why. I’ll have a talk with Monty this evening.

bench bed 4

I like everything about elderberries: the form, the foliage, the flowers, the vanilla fragrance and, of course, the delicious, health-giving fruit. Last year I made a tasty elderberry liquer. The salad bowl on the stump to the right contains ‘Red Sails’ lettuce and a lone kale seedling. I had great germination from ‘Red Sails’ this year–you may have noticed it all over the garden. A good-looking, nutritious eating lettuce, it also makes a fine ornamental. Most of the plants in the ground will be left to bloom for seed. In the center, the tall yellow flowers are new blooms of Thermopsis villosa, the Carolina bush pea.

elderberry close 3

Flower cymes of Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis.

elderberry close 1

plum bed face north

The main path with a checkerboard of escarole and red lettuce; peonies; feathery gray wormwood (Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’); Calamintha nepetoides aka Nepitella, another good honeybee and tea plant; Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium; lilies and ‘Hyperion’ daylilies.

phacelia bed

Blue-flowered Phacelia tanacetifolia, Bee’s Friend, in the foreground. Why so many bee plants? First off, bees are extremely important to plant life–everyone should have bee plants in their gardens. Secondly, the aged, hollowed Catalpa tree in the background contains a huge hive of native bees.

bees catalpa hive 1

The main entrance to the hive is the hole on the left side of the crotch.

bees catalpa hive 2

Apparently, all the bees buzzing around the entrance confused the camera’s auto-focus. This was the sharpest of over 30 photos; you can glimpse the honeycomb inside. This hive swarmed in April, half the group taking up temporary residence in the mulberry tree in back. A bee-keeping neighbor came over and captured the swarm, involving a bee suit, a 20-foot ladder and a pole saw. And, in a moment of serendipity, the following day another neighbor came over with a homemade gift…

hive face west

hive close

… a top-bar hive. A top-bar hive differs from the standard hive, or Langstroth hive, in that it contains no pre-made frames for the honeycombs. The combs simply hang from bars of wood, ostensibly making for lighter work and easier harvests for the beekeeper.

hive open

I have much to learn on this fascinating new project. Bees are exacting in their requirements.

hive face north

The hive sits under a wild cherry tree, with good morning sun. Seems like the perfect spot, so far.

harvest mulberries lettuce

Overall, May 2017 has been good to the garden, with more rain coming tonight. Through an ever-escalating series of defenses, the three-year rabbit plague has mostly abated. I’m growing lettuce in open ground. A pleasant half-hour at dusk yielded salad greens and enough mulberries for a pint of jam and a couple of pancake breakfasts. I take care of the plants, the plants feed me, I feed the mosquitoes… Everything in balance.

main path face north 1

urn bed face south

bench bed 5

avant garde pot 2

pear bed face east 1

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2 comments
  1. James Grauerholz said:

    Seeing this through my William’s eyes. And we thoroughly enjoy and admire and encourage this wonderland !
    James Grauerholz
    6-1-17

    • My Education of a Gardener said:

      Thank you, James. A major consideration for this garden is “Would William like it?” I’m very glad you think he would.

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