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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

A picture from the Mars Rover? No. This landscape sculpture, nearly six feet in diameter, is 80 feet underwater off the coast of Japan. Diver Yoji Ookata took this photograph in August 2012. Who, or what, made it? Aliens? Click image for the answer.

100 Must-Have Garden Plants
The list of the 100 must-have garden plants, chosen by people like Dan Pearson, Piet Oudolf, Fergus Garrett and others, has just arrived here with my latest copy of Gardens Illustrated.  Even though some old favorites appear among the selections, I have included the entire list with the hope that it might get you to try out something new this season. Inspiration for 2013, but its going to be hotter – Tom.     Juniper Hill

Naked German Monk Likely a Victim of Hallucinogenic Berries
A concerned hiker who spotted the naked man and tried unsuccessfully to assist him notified police in the Bavarian town of Unterwössen, according to news reports. Police found the man cold and disoriented and took him to the hospital.     Yahoo News

Heptacodium miconioides
Although this China-native, fountain-shaped shrub or small tree may now be extinct in the wild, it is becoming increasingly popular as a unique and attractive landscape specimen. The common name refers to the fragrant creamy white flowers in clusters of seven that bloom profusely from late August to late September. Flowers are followed by an equally showy display of purplish-red “fruits”.      Missouri Botanical Garden

Flax
Flax was one of the most important crops to early American farmers and to the economy of our emerging nation. Grown in almost every state east of the Mississippi River, and some beyond, flax was literally the fiber and preservative that helped sustain our people.    Jefferson Institute

Gardener’s Delight Offers Glimpse Into the Evolution of Flowering Plants
Dandy peony, the Double Peppermint petunia, the Doubled Strawberry Vanilla lily and nearly all roses are varieties cultivated for their double flowers. The blossoms of these and other such plants are lush with extra petals in place of the parts of the flower needed for sexual reproduction and seed production, meaning double flowers — though beautiful — are mutants and usually sterile.
Science Daily

Rumex Ruminations
Mainer Merritt Fernald, who was the Harvard wunderkind of botany from around 1900 to 1950, said all of the 17 native Rumex species in North America were edible. He completely failed to mention most of them are so bitter it would take days of boiling to make them palatable, if ever.     Eat The Weeds

Commelina communis
The flowers of this species have a “true blue” color that is found in few other plants. Usually, most “blue” flowers are closer to violet or purple. The Asiatic Dayflower has become the most common Commelina sp. (Dayflower) in Illinois for reasons that are not entirely clear.
Illinois Wildflowers

Oedo Island
Just imagine an island which is green 365 days a year and always covered with beautiful blossoming flowers and trees, most of which you probably know only from botanic textbooks or TV programs showing pictures of remote tropical countries.     Korea Travel Club

Summer-y Summary
Autumn is upon me, here in the nether region between I Don’t Want to Live Here Anymore and Now I Live Somewhere Else.  When you exist in a shadow world such as this, you tread a fine line between the Things that You Have to Do But Don’t Want To and the Things That You Just Aren’t Going To Do Anymore.      A Thistle in My Sensitive Area

A Brief History of Seeds and Plant Domestication
Seed varieties have declined significantly since the beginning of time, and even more so with plant domestication. World blight may come upon us if we continue to depend on limited varieties of corn, soy and wheat. (Hat tip to James Grauerholz.)      Utne Reader

The Sideyard Garden Takes Front and Center in Historic Charleston
What might strike you right away is that there is rarely a front yard here; it is all about the side yard in Charleston. A side yard in my neck of the woods is usually a gardening afterthought or it is used as a storage area for supplies or trash bins. But the side yard is to low country Charleston gardens like shrimp and grits are to its cuisine.     Garden Envy

Rembrandt Peale, “Rubens Peale with a Geranium,” 1801. Click image for Rembrandt Peale Wiki.

Ceanothus (California Lilac), a genus of about 50–60 species of shrubs or small trees in the family Rhamnaceae, is one of the plants I sorely miss from my California gardening days. Colonies of Ceanothus and Manzanita cover miles of the Big Sur coastline. The pictured cultivar, “Dark Star,” grows to eight feet tall and blooms in early spring, filling the air with sweet fragrance. Photo by Pete at East Bay Wilds, a first-rate native plant nursery in Oakland, CA. Click image for more of Pete’s photos of Ceanothus species and cultivars.

Ian Spomer, Number One gardening collaborator, has an application on his phone that stitches related photographs into a panaroma. This shot is in the back yard, facing east. The tree alley is at left, then the round herb bed, the elliptical bug bed, the kitchen garden behind the garage, the bean teepee and the catnip bed at right. Click on the image and then enlarge it for a detailed tour.

“Don’t knock the weather. If it didn’t change once in a while, nine out of ten people couldn’t start a conversation.” – Kin Hubbard

The nights are in the 40s and 50s now, with a low of 38 in the forecast for Saturday. Daytime temperatures are in the high 70s and low 80s. Fall is here. The Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is starting to color, as are the imported Amur Honeysuckles (Lonicera maackii), loathed for their invasiveness but nevertheless beautiful twice a year. Masses of unscented white flowers in spring become pea-sized red berries in fall, which hold as the leaves turn a clear yellow. And, in one of Nature’s countless serendipities, Clematis terniflora, the Sweet Autumn clematis (another rampant, naturalized foreigner), comes into bloom at the same time the honeysuckles put on their fall finery.

The Sweet Autumn clematis, Clematis terniflora, weaves its way through the Amur honeysckle, Lonicera maackii.  The clematis fills the evening garden with a sweet scent that some people liken to root beer. Photo Dayton Segard.

Sweet Autumn clematis along the north bank of Burroughs Creek. Photo Ian Spomer.

The big, five-parted leaves of Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia, top center) will soon turn crimson and the Hosta plantaginea (bottom right) are beginning to sag. The round-leaved Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia “Aurea”) is reverting to chartreuse-yellow as the weather cools. Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei, bottom left) is another introduced thug, though with attentive pruning it can become something of an asset in the wilder garden. It remains evergreen through winter, taking on a dull red hue. Photo Dayton Segard.

In the kitchen garden behind the garage, a couple of nights in the low 40s took the determination out of the okra. No complaints–I ate well of okra this season, one of the few plants that sailed through the unprecedented heat. Eggplant did fairly well, particularly the long, slender Japanese types, but the tomatoes and peppers shut down when temperatures exceeded 95 degrees for two months straight. Now, with temperatures in the 80s, the tomatoes and peppers are blossoming and setting fruit like mad, racing to make seed as the days grow shorter.

Tomato “Sungold” heavy with fruit, tangled with soft yellow Thunbergia alata and Ipomoea tricolor “Flying Saucers.” Photo Dayton Segard.

The garden was plagued with rabbits until this year’s heat, and old wheelbarrows make bunny-thwarting, moveable substitutes for permanent raised beds. Smaller barrows hold spinach, kale and salad greens. This barrow was home to two kinds of Japanese eggplant, Thai basil, edamame and Scarlet Runner beans (which gave flowers but no beans). Four five-gallon, bottomless buckets (two behind this barrow), each hold one okra plant (Clemson Spineless), and three or four zinnia plants. Photo Dayton Segard.

In the front barrow, Lolla Rossa lettuce has reseeded. Photo Dayton Segard.

Malabar spinach, Basella alba, also took the heat in stride as long as it got a good soaking every couple of days. I thought I was buying the purple-stemmed form, Basella rubra, as the seed packet advertised, but B. alba was just fine, too. The vines weren’t self-twining–I had to weave them through the trellis. The raw leaf is too dense for many palates, too slimy when cooked, but I find it tasty in all applications and certainly a useful and nutritious food plant for hot-weather cultivation. And bonus points because it looks wild and weird. Photo Dayton Segard.

Ian Spomer picking beans. The bean teepee was good in theory, but only fair in practice. Yardlong beans (actually, a cowpea), yellow wax beans and Kentucky Wonder beans were planted in late June. The Yardlongs were extremely vigorous, loving the heat, and gave well before shutting down at the end of August. The yellow wax beans didn’t make it (on the shadiest side of the teepee), and the Kentucky Wonders just started producing about two weeks ago. If we try the teepee again, it will have better sun and plantings of bush beans between the poles to hide bare ankles and maximize usage of space. Photo Dayton Segard.

Q: Know why they call them “Wonder” beans?
A: You spend all summer wondering if you’re going to get beans.
Old farmer joke. Real old.

Plantsman and photographer Dayton Segard in the kitchen garden. Photo Ian Spomer.

Concord grape and morning glory climbing a sculpture by Jordan Briceland on the back wall of the garage. Photo Dayton Segard.

Long shot of the kitchen garden behind the garage. Herb bed on the left, and the bug bed behind. Photo Dayton Segard.

Long, long shot of the kitchen garden, standing in front of the wild cherry tree and looking east through the tree alley. Photo Ian Spomer.

Looking west through the tree alley to the wild Black Cherry tree, Prunus serotina. The twigs and leaves of P. Serotina are highly poisonous, containing prussic acid which converts to cyanide when consumed. Butterfly caterpillars eat the leaves and birds love the fruit, and after several prunings, the tree reveals a beautiful form. This past Tuesday, Winky the Cat, the garden’s monoscopic exterminator, was buried under the cherry tree. Bon voyage, sweet friend. Photo Ian Spomer.

Winky’s grave under the cherry tree, looking south to the creek. The stones will be removed in Spring and replaced with a low, quiet shrub. Photo Ian Spomer.

Looking north this time, to the tsunami of honeysuckle along the fence line. Underneath the honeysuckle? A plush carpet of poison ivy. Photo Dayton Segard.

Many happy hours are spent in the seating area next to the bug bed. Ten people sit comfortably on the stumps, chairs and hay bales. The view is to the south, with the kitchen garden on the left. Most of the plants in the bug bed are highly attractive to pollinating insects: Hyssop, Monarda, Agastache, Liatris, various culinary mints, Asclepias, Lantana, Cleome, Sedum, and Zinnias for the butterflies. Photo Ian Spomer.

View of trees from seating area, looking south. Photo Ian Spomer.

A winter holding bed for seed-grown Munstead lavender, calamint and silver thyme. When the pond on the back patio was installed, excess sand was dumped in this area. The soil drains well and has a slight slope, which should keep the Mediterranean plants happy until final placement in spring. Photo Ian Spomer.

The bug bed’s last hurrah. The blue plumbago is tender, so it gets potted up and taken in for the winter. The soft pink heads of Sedum spectabile “Autumn Joy,” a staple in Kansas gardens, are covered with an amazing variety of insects. Photo Dayton Segard.

Cleome on the fade. Photo Dayton Segard.

A robust Datura inoxia pierced by the ultra-thorny Solanum atropurpureum “Malevolence.” Photo Dayton Segard.

Look at those thorns! I found seeds of “Malevolence” from Rob Broekhuis of Rob’s Plants this spring, and set out a dozen plants in different locations around the yard in June. All were stunted by the heat–reaching only two feet tall, not the standard four–but they’re setting fruit now so I’ll have seed to try for better results next year. Photo Dayton Segard.

Had I sown three times the seed, the Cardinal Climber, Ipomoea sloteri, might have put on quite a show on the old lamp at the front of the house. Still, the idea holds promise. Photo Dayton Segard.

Potted up and ready to spend the winter in the sunny back porch. Photo Dayton Segard.

Winky (2007-2012), keeping an eye on her garden. I hope she always will.