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geoffrey bale palazoo reale genoa 1

Photo by Geoffrey Bale of a tapestry in the Palazzo Reale, Genoa, Italy.

Any close and worthwhile contact with the earth tends to make one original or at least detached in one’s judgments and independent of group control.—L.H. Bailey

*pear tree bed

March 15. New beds keep a gardener happy. Eight years ago, this garden began with a six-foot diameter ring of stones around a dying plum tree.  It hasn’t been easy, it isn’t pretty, it’s the best creative endeavor, it attracts and nurtures life. Nature makes a garden, humans help.

*face west pond back door

March 26, looking West from the back door on a rainy day. Ditch lilies, Hemerocallis fulva, on the rise.

*face west 3

March 28, facing West. Buddy Chamaecyparis, a gallon pot eight years ago, perished in July’s unprecedented heat. I didn’t give enough care, I knew it wanted shade. Farewell, Champ–who will the lilies lean on next year? Maybe something purple. The trellis poles await bamboo, a fresh-cut pile of ten-foot poles stacked by the garage. At the back of the property is the stump of an enormous Mulberry, Morus rubra, decades ago split in half six feet above the ground by a great natural force (lightning the legend, flood likely). The thick laterals extended at least 15 feet on both sides of the boundary line, sprouting to ten feet through a tangled understory of Lonicera maackii and piss Elms, Ulmus pumila. This was the eldest of three Mulberries on the property, by far the most attractive to birds, and officially on the neighbor’s side for removal. It took a crew of five and heavy machinery to do the job. Look at all the new light. This year, the aging Cherry gave a spectacular bloom and a symphony of bugs, faded and gray in this picture.

garage bed 1

April 12. Garage bed facing East. New bamboo and the last year for this old raised bed. Self-seeded wild arugula at right; seedlings of escarole, Calendula and Asclepias center and left; snow peas starting to climb the bamboo. In the trellis beds, seeds of bitter melon, pole beans and cucamelon; and ‘Pintung Long’ eggplant seedlings next to the short bamboos. The barrow and big pots hold tomatoes, ‘Rosita’ eggplants, basil and petunias. Yellow chard and elderberry cuttings in other pots.

garage bed 2

April 12. Garage bed facing West.

main path face northeast 1

April 30. Garage bed from the main path, facing North. Tulips, Salvia and daisies on the left. Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, golden Creeping Jenny, on the ground. It is a beautiful living mulch, it’s infamous vigor kept in check by our Summer heat, drought and a thick mulch of straw in early July.

*tulip gavota 2

April 30. Tulipa ‘Gavota’, returning for the third year.

*snapper returning to big pond 6

In early May, a couple of snapping turtles migrate from the nearby creek to the big pond on the back patio. The creek usually dries up by the end of June–but in this 2018 garden, August was wetter than April.

**robert burns 2

Robert Burns basking in Summer digs. I saw him last in early September.

**allium christophii 2

May 25, Main path North of Garage Bed. Starry Allium christophii in front; glaucous leaves of Rudbeckia maxima, giant coneflower, at left; tall shoots of Helenium ‘Rubinzwerg’ back left; pink puffs of red clover, Trifolium pratense, weaving. The red patch behind the creeping jenny is self-seeded ‘Hopi Red Dye’ amaranth.

bean pole

May 25. Garage bed facing West. ‘Danish Flag’ poppies in foreground, underseeded with lettuce; marigolds, jalapeno and poblano peppers along the horizontal bamboo. ‘Black Vernissage’ tomatoes in the tall cages. The few fruits harvested were fine in salads, unremarkable from the vine, no fault of the cultivar in this weather.

**trellis seedlings

May 30. Pole Beans on the left, Cucumbers and Bitter Melon on the right. Bush Beans below. I usually plant these crops a week or two earlier–our last predicted frost date is April 21–but my tardiness made no difference this year. We went from Winter to Summer in three weeks, which included a killing frost. Pole beans, usually the most reliable crop in the garden, did poorly.

*entrance 7:9

June 9, Entrance

*ride face west 2

June 6. The Ride facing West, Garage Bed, 8:30PM. Buckets of Aji amarillo and ‘Amana Orange’ tomatoes. Beans along the bamboo look their best here, heat and rabbits soon took them. Until 2018, I counted on a personal Summer’s worth of beans, cukes, okra, a few great tomatoes, mustard greens and amaranth. It flipped this year, amaranth the sole constant; peppers were delicious and abundant–Aji, ‘Fish’, Jalapeno, Poblano, ‘Santa Fe’, Serrano–and I haven’t enjoyed so much pesto in decades. Basil and all the Mediterranean herbs were unusually generous, and the potted Bay grew a foot taller. Two of seven ‘Munstead’ lavenders overwintered, a rare triumph.

*buckets mid-june

June 6. Five-gallon buckets, bottoms removed, filled with loam, manure, compost and worm castings. ‘Amana Orange’ tomatoes in the left row, Aji amarillo peppers middle and right. ‘Will Rogers’ zinnias in between the buckets.

cricket katydid scudderia sp

Katydid on Genovese Basil.

**front elder darlow ninebark

June 10. 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’ (second year). I seeded white clover as a no-mow living mulch last year and will add more this Spring.

**urn bed herbs dianthus lychnis allium

June 5, Urn Bed face East. Rue; ‘Drumstick’ Allium; tarragon in front; Lychnis coronaria; unknown red-flowered Dianthus; and chives.

lonicera major wheeler

June 1. Lonicera ‘Major Wheeler’–a tough, floriferous and non-fragrant honeysuckle–on the chain-link in front.

*front-lonicera-major-wheeler

**snake path face west 3

June 5. Snake Path facing West.

*linaria maroccana

Toadflax, Linaria maroccana ‘Northern Lights,’ blooming at the beginning of June from a mid-March sowing. I have seen great sweeps of toadflax blooming wild in Spain but this is the first time I’ve had it in the garden. Charming.

gravel bed face east 6:15

June 15. The Gravel Bench, facing East.

gravel-bed-face-northwest

Late June. Gravel Bench, facing North. Echinacea purpurea, juvenile Ricinus communis ‘Carmencita’, and red ‘Serengeti’ lilies. Rosa ‘At Last’ and Petunia ‘Ultra Blue Star’ in the bench pots. Elderberry blooms fading in back.

*afternoon light new elders

June 25. Flowers of Sambucus canadensis ‘Bob Gordon,’ collected from the wild in Missouri in 1999. Mr. Gordon encountered his namesake during a routine ramble in the woods, describing it as a specimen of unprecedented size and vigor. He wasn’t kidding: two-year plants from seven-inch cuttings are now eight feet tall. Harvesting elderberries is a fiddly task. After cutting the berry clusters, I put them in the refrigerator for a few days which seems to help loosen the berries from the stalks. All parts of the elderberry plant contain toxic cyanide compounds, only fully ripened berries should be consumed, stems and green berries must be removed. Six hours of careful picking yielded three gallons of useful berries which became one gallon of elderberry liqueur: vodka, elderberries, lemon and orange zests, black peppercorns and brown sugar syrup; strained and aged for at least three months.

1200px-Albrecht_Dürer_-_Hare,_1502_-_Google_Art_Project

“Young Hare” by Albrecht Durer, 1502. Photo Wikimedia Commons.

*small barrows

July 1. The small barrows, home to ‘Cherry Falls’ tomatoes (bred to cascade), bright orange ‘King Theodore’ nasturtiums and ‘Genovese’ basil. ‘Red Globe’ amaranth in the pots. The tomatoes had unusually curled leaves and yielded poorly, which I now know is due to juglone, a growth-stunting compound contained in all parts of black walnut trees. I knew the barrows were under the drip line of the walnuts but I thought juglone was soil-based. Wrong; plus tomatoes are highly allergic to juglone. Even rainwater dripping from the walnut leaves was enough to cause harm, though it didn’t bother the basil at all.

*garden edge face west

July 7, facing West. Green light before a storm. Pale lavender blooms of bee balm, Monarda fistulosa, in the distance. Plenty of bumble and small bees this year but very few honeybees.

*feeling the heat chamaecyparis miscanthus 7:29

July 15.

*lilium ‘scheherazade' 8

July 15. Lilium ‘Scheherazade’. Photobomb Monarda.

*lilium auratum gold band eryngium yuccifolium

July 15. Lilium auratum ‘Gold Band’ with ‘Rattlesnake Master’, Eryngium yuccifolium.

*lilium tiger

July 15. Tiger Lilies budded at once, blooms barely lasted four days.

*little path bedraggled

August 9. Little Path, facing East. Daylilies, asters, snapdragons and lilies in front. Ipomoea ‘Solar Tower Black’ on the pole at left. It really does climb, eight feet by first frost.

*empty bed 7:29

August 12. Seedlings of flowering tobacco, Nicotiana x mutabilis ‘Bella’, on the move, while tender and pinnate-leaved Cassia didimobotrya languishes in the hot semi-shade of the mulberry tree. I’ll replace it with the native and perennial Cassia marilandica in 2019, not as fine in structure but much tougher. A border of catmint in front. self-seeded Leonitis everywhere.

*insect-imperial-moth-eacles-imperialis-728-1

Eacles imperialis on the front screen. Wow! Indulgent of my documentation, measured relaxed wingspan just under seven inches. Shook the screen twice but it hung tight. Early next morning, it was gone.

*solanum-quitoense-sporobolus

*lilium-bright-diamond-hemerocallis-south-seas

Lilium ‘Bright Diamond’ and Hemerocallis ‘South Seas’.

*storm-11

Hard storms getting harder.

*gravel-bench-bed-face-east

*garage-bed-2

*solanum-jungle-822

Solanaceae.

*berberis-pot-2

Main Path facing South. Berberis ‘Tangelo’ front left.

*bean-depradation

*main-path-south-entrance

Main Path from the South.

elder-fruit-sparse

Sparse fruit on native Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis ‘Burroughs Creek’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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 lilies chamaecyparis thermopsis

Spring Green 1: Six-pack Violas, Daylilies, “Scheherazade” lilies, Chamaecyparis, Miscanthus and Carolina Bush Pea, Thermopsis villosa.

**spring green elder lemon banana

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.

**spring green verbascum amsonia thermopsis overhead

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.

**allium christophii 2

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.

 

dscf3024_thumb

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.

**beans bush dragon tongue

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.

**garden entrance

That same rainy day.

**bunny beds peach

The Bunny Beds on the 20th, another gray day.

**cat graveyard 2

Small pond, Cat graveyard and garage.

**front lonicera major wheeler

On the chain-link out front, “Major Wheeler” had his first flush mid-May.

**front elder darlow ninebark

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’.

**rosa darlow's enigma close

“Darlow’s Enigma,” close.

**front pseudo-shrubbery 5:25

The Pseudo-Shrubbery on the front walk.

**elder bed new

The New Elders bed, from six-inch cuttings 15 months ago, now pushing eight feet and budding.

**echinacea mutation

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 fronting ipomoea batatas

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.

**color wheel

Slaves to the Color Wheel would hate this.

**face west

On the Main Path facing West, May 30.

**main path little path

Main Path and Little Path, May 20.

**peppers beans

Peppers and Beans, mid-May. Tomatoes on the stakes.

**snapdragons 2

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.

**sporobolus solanum nasturtium

Left to right: Prairie Dropseed grasses, Sporobolus heterolepis; Nasturtium “Moonlight,” a pale yellow trailing type; and Naranjilla, Solanum quitoense.

**main path pots 2

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.

**tomato barrows need groundcover

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.

**trellis seedlings

Pole Beans on the left, Cucumbers and Bitter Melon on the right. Bush Beans below.

**mulberry face north

Mulberry One, facing North.

**mulberries

What we’re waiting for.

**garage bed last year for raised bed 1

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.

**pond path

Path around the Big Pond.

**robert burns 2

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 face west 3

Snake Path facing West.

**urn bed herbs dianthus lychnis allium

**main path face northeast

**ride face west pm

**cypress pole

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 table 5:25

View from the table, 5/25.

*robin on bones

Las Condiciones del Pajaro Solitario
Son cinco.
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