“Don’t knock the weather. If it didn’t change once in a while, nine out of ten people couldn’t start a conversation.” – Kim Hubbard
Spring Green 1: Six-pack Violas, Daylilies, “Scheherazade” lilies, Chamaecyparis, Miscanthus and Carolina Bush Pea, Thermopsis villosa.
Spring Green 2: Elderberries on the left (Sambucus canadensis “Burroughs Creek”), native Fleabane upright in the background, fronted by a cutting-grown Korean Boxwood (Buxus koreana), a potted Meyer Lemon, and on the left a Banana gifted by friends as a pup last September, overwintered on the back porch. In the foreground is Northern Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium. I appreciate this plant for it’s bambooish appearance but I pull at least 30 seedlings every morning. The two plants I have in half-shade are slower, skinnier and sparing re-seeders.
The rosettes of gray leaves on the left belong to white-flowered Mullein, Verbascum “Governor George Aiken,” a favorite of bees.The yellow groundcover up top is Creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’. The feathery leaves below belong to Amsonia hubrichtii, a Bluestar, in it’s fifth year from seed and finally bulking up. The compound leaves at far right belong to the Carolina Lupine, Thermopsis villosa, with wild Violets (Viola papilionacea), and Calamint seedlings underfoot.
The end of May marks the start of one of the biggest annual events in the garden: the Fruiting of the Mulberries. Avian anticipation is sky-high, as much parking lot activity as a 1970s Grateful Dead concert. Grackles, Cardinals, Robins, Thrashers, Catbirds, Chickadees, Bluejays, Waxwings and wingless Squirrels inspect the fruit many times a day, awaiting that moment. One male Cardinal——nesting with his partner in the light above the garage door—staked turf on the big Mulberry, taking up his position on a high perch in the tree at dawn, forcing other male Cardinals to the younger, less fruitful Mulberries in the back of the garden. The fruit is still tight and red but if this heat keeps up, they’ll ripen in a week. Once the mulberry feast is over, the grackles move north, following the Fruiting up to Minnesota, leaving behind a minefield of purple and white ejecta that cling to plant leaves like Super Glue. The best part of the Fruiting is that the grackles are gone until March next year. And mulberry pancakes, of course.
– Other birds: Barred Owls, a Merlin, Red Tails, Turkey Buzzards, and a newcomer whose call starts with short, rhythmic chucks that sound like rosewood sticks, followed by several liquid gulps, all unusually loud—a rainforest sound. Reports that the raptor boxes installed on the nearby grain silos are all occupied account in part for the decrease in the rabbit population.
I was strangely satisfied with this picture, taken on May 25: Star of Persia, Allium christophii, bursting out; Giant Coneflower, Rudbeckia maxima, the glaucous leaves at left; Helenium ‘Rubinzwerg’ rising in back; Red Clover, Trifolium pratense on the sprawl; and bright Creeping Jenny on the ground. I can’t deny my admiration for the Hayefield style–my ideal garden is a cross between Ninfa and Harry Dodson’s walled Victorian kitchen garden. I often consult Nan’s site, particularly older posts, and came across a shot from Bloom Day, June 2013, below.
Ahem. The persistence of inspiration. Hayefield.
Chelsea Chop: Sedum, Asters, Monarda, Patrinia, Buxus
Delays bloom and directs growth—you can stagger and prolong the blooms of particular plants by cutting back only half of the plant. The uncut half will bloom at the usual time, the cut half a few weeks later.
In July, the Hampton Hack (also named after an RHS plant show), rejuvenates herbaceous plants after their initial flushes of bloom (Geraniums Nepeta, Alchemilla, Calamintha—anything looking spent), spurring foliage growth and occasional repeat bloom. The key is to divert the plant’s energy from making seed to overall vigor.
Seedlings of Bush Bean “Dragon’s Tongue,” long flat pods, yellow streaked purple, purportedly tender with extra-beany flavor. A rainy day on the 16th.
That same rainy day.
The Bunny Beds on the 20th, another gray day.
Small pond, Cat graveyard and garage.
On the chain-link out front, “Major Wheeler” had his first flush mid-May.
In front on the creekside, left to right, Burroughs elderberry, “Darlow’s Enigma” rose (fifth year), and dark-leaved “Summer Wine” Ninebark, Physocarpus opulus ‘Seward’.
“Darlow’s Enigma,” close.
The Pseudo-Shrubbery on the front walk.
The New Elders bed, from six-inch cuttings 15 months ago, now pushing eight feet and budding.
Unusual flower color and form, and very early bloom, on a Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, by the main path. There was a phyllodic mutation in this patch of Coneflowers last year—perhaps more interesting variations are forthcoming.
Iris “Gerald Darby,” a yellow Ipomoea batatas, tropical Plumbago at left.
Bugs return mid-May: Chiggers, Mosquitoes, Oak Mites (humans), Loopers, Hornworms, Flea Beetles (plants), Fleas, Ear Mites (cats). Many Bumblebees, few Honeybees. Fireflies and crickets back in force. Fireflies are Earth magic.
The Shiitake logs flushed after the first rain, two pounds in five days, three good dinners.
Slaves to the Color Wheel would hate this.
On the Main Path facing West, May 30.
Main Path and Little Path, May 20.
Peppers and Beans, mid-May. Tomatoes on the stakes.
Snapdragons on the Little Path. Never grown Snaps before–bees all over them. This location seems too hot and sunny; a bit more shade next time.
Left to right: Prairie Dropseed grasses, Sporobolus heterolepis; Nasturtium “Moonlight,” a pale yellow trailing type; and Naranjilla, Solanum quitoense.
Main Path pots, from the left: a coral Diascia; seedlings of Zinnia “Profusion Apricot;” a remarkable yellow Lantana camara, a Zone 8 tropical who survived the Winter of 2016 (-12 degrees), in open ground; variegated Aptenia cordifolia; a Tangelo Barberry and pale yellow Moss Roses, Portulaca grandiflora, in the big red pot; and a seedling “QIS Red Globe” Amaranth in the pot in front.
Barrows of “Cherry Falls” cascading Tomatoes, orange Nasturtium “King Theodore,” “Genovese” Basil, and Red Globe Amaranth in the pots. Seventy-five percent of this garden is from seed or cuttings.
Pole Beans on the left, Cucumbers and Bitter Melon on the right. Bush Beans below.
Mulberry One, facing North.
What we’re waiting for.
The last year for this old raised bed.
Forcing a plant, or any living thing, to subsist in unnatural conditions is a cruelty to the creature; a waste of time, hope and resources for the gardener; and a bad effect on Life. It goes back to Beth Chatto’s dictum: “Right plant, right place,” though, as Chatto always averred, she wasn’t the first to make that observation, (Theophrastus, Historia Plantarum, 300 BC).
Case in point: the ubiquitous Verbena bonariensis, almost a garden cliche now. It grew itself in my California gardens, reseeding at a welcome nuisance level, yet here it languishes in our muggy heat. It really is a desirable and charming see-through. This is my third attempt to bring V.bon into this garden—the first two from seed, this time from nursery plants—and its not looking good. Even in part shade, they droop drastically by noon. Drooping is not a reason to fill the watering can; it is a survival tactic for extremes. Usually, when the hard sun passes, plants perk right up. V.bon perks up in the shade but with each 90+ day, it’s will diminishes. Desired plant, wrong place. I don’t like to witness unearned suffering; sometimes, the greatest mercy is a quick kill. Perhaps Hesperaloe is a better see-through option in this changing climate.
Path around the Big Pond.
Robert Burns isn’t so shy anymore. He heads to the creek around 7:30 am most mornings and returns to the pond at 6pm. Punching the Snapping Turtle clock. I see him in transit a couple of times per week.
Snake Path facing West.
White Cypress seedlings, Ipomoea quamoclit, have germinated at the base of the pole and are reputed to climb to 15 feet. A white Daylily at right in front, Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’ at left, Lemon Balm milling around, and Tritunia ‘Blue Star’ in the pot.
View from the table, 5/25.
Las Condiciones del Pajaro Solitario
La primera, que se va lo más alto;
la segunda, que no sufre compañía, aunque sea de su naturaleza;
la tercera, que pone el pico al aire;
la cuarta, que no tiene determinado color;
la quinta, que canta suavemente.
– San Juan de la Cruz, Dichos de Luz y Amor