A Few Things

I’m watching the weather radar with my fingers crossed for some rain tonight.  Its the typical summertime story for gardeners, where everyone else is hoping for another day of blue skies, while we’re sitting here hoping for a completely washed out day (or if it’s not too greedy, night, followed by a day perfect for weeding and planting but…).  Things are’t too bad, but there’s some heat on the way and without a little rain the garden will start complaining.  As it is the lushness has been sapped out of the lawn and the shade plantings are wilted, but to be honest I blame greedy maple roots for most of that.

summer garden flowers

It’s an oxeye daisy year in the front border.  Winter killed off much of the fennel, and the daisies appreciate the open real estate.  It’s not a fancy look, but still better than more yawn to mow.  

A few plants don’t mind, in fact prefer, the drier soils.  Here are a few of the more interesting things popping into bloom and looking quite good while they do it.  Thing one is this red Echium.

echium amoenum

Last year at the NARGS Ithaca plant sale I picked up an Echium russicum seedling and was a little unimpressed as it tried to flower amidst the lush chaos.  This year I’m loving its look in the sparseness of a drier flower bed.

The milkweeds always put on a decent show, and I wouldn’t complain if more show up, although one clump of the common milkweed is plenty… which of course doesn’t explain clumps two and three and four throughout the garden.

asclepias syriaca milkweed

Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a weed not suitable for the cultivated garden.  I like the fragrance though, and don’t mind pulling up every sucker which pops up in a 20 foot radius… every week… After bloom finishes I’ll cut them back to about 1.5 feet and the new growth will attract the Monarch butterflies.

The purple milkweed (Asclepias purpurescens) is quite showy and quite a responsible flower border inhabitant.  This one hasn’t run around for me like it’s common cousin, and I actually may have to dig and divide it in order to spread it around.  That will be a new one for me and it makes me a little nervous since to get this one going took a few failed seed attempts and then quite some nursing along before the clump flowered for the first time.  Sadly I have yet to get a seedpod on this one.

asclepias purpurascens milkweed

Asclepias purpurascens, the purple milkweed.  Nice form and foliage and doesn’t mind a little bit of a dry spell, unlike it’s similarly colored swamp milkweed relative.

Another cool new thing in the purple color family is this knapweed.  I don’t like the most aggressive roadside-weedy ones, but this well-behaved perennial with the purple topped knobby buds is worth growing.  I was so excited to find it through Nan Ondra’s Hayefield Seeds.  If you haven’t already visited her site you should, the summer seeds are ripening and going on her list, and now is a great time to scatter them about for when the summer rains come  (they will either sprout now or wait until cooler weather returns).

centaurea atropurpurea

Centaurea atropurpurea, the purple knapweed.  Purple flowers poke up from scaly flower buds, and they’re quite popular with the bumble bees.

The knapweed seed was sown last summer and is blooming now, but the next plant has been inching along for at least 6 years.  Three small bulblets came in a ziplock bag with a note that they should be hardy for me, but I’ve heard that song before.  They were planted in a couple spots, one died the first winter but the rest slowly grew and grew until suddenly this week I had a flower stalk appear.  Honestly I was only just last week cursing the bulbs, because seriously I know it’s not the nicest garden but how long are we going to drag this out, and then all of a sudden a stalk and flower were there.  It’s my first blooming of the Orange River lily (Crinum Bulbispermum) and I’m not at all annoyed that it was the smaller bulb which bloomed and the larger bulb is still just sitting there pretending to be exotic.

crinum bulbispermum

Crinum bulbispermum, a plant which may need to be beaten with a water hose to induce blooming since that’s what our contractor did to it… and the un-beaten plant is still just foliage.  

Someone might remember I planted a few other, less-hardy Crinum lilies last summer, and shockingly they all survived with only some pitiful attempts at additional winter protection (I threw a bucket over them in January one cold night when I was feeling guilty about spending a bunch of money and not protecting them better).  Those bulbs are far less-likely to flower this summer since they all appear to have lost much of their bulbs to the cold, but maybe next winter will be different?  Maybe I’ll mulch and cover them and give them what they deserve?  Maybe…

crinum bulbispermum

The lighter blooms darkened up by the end of the day to the typical Crinum bulbispermum color.  I like them, even though I suspect they’ll be finished flowering by the end of the week.  These bulbs by the way receive no winter protection and have been perfectly hardy to just under zero Farenheit.

So is three as far as interesting things go here?  On to more mundane things.  I think I will give up and rip out the tomatoes poisoned by the herbicide-laced grass clippings mulch from next door.  They are all still sending up stunted, curled and twisted foliage and one plant is beginning to brown and die so I don’t think there’s much of a chance for any miraculous recovery.  New plants are in the next bed over and although I nervously mulched them with grass clippings from my own yard, they’re still doing fine, so I guess eventually there will be tomatoes for sauce this summer.

tomatoes herbicide damage

The sad, stunted tomatoes.  I haven’t noticed any damage in other plants, although some of the larkspur in this bed might be stunted, and thankfully the cabbage/cauliflower bed also looks fine in spite of getting the same mulch. 

I’m wondering if it would be weird to fertilize the lawn and water it just so I can mow it and bag the clippings to put down as mulch in the vegetable garden?  I guess it wouldn’t be much different than a hayfield that gets cut, and it’s still better than bagging the clippings to dump them in the trash, but maybe I should just work a little to keep the weeds down.  Nahhh.  Mulch is better, plus it conserves moisture and the earthworms eat it up and produce worm-manure all while aerating the beds with their worm-tunnels.  It would just mean more lawn mowing, which in theory I am against 😉

meadow garden

The meadow garden where mowing is still a no-no.  It’s drying out so tans are starting to show up.  There’s some rudbeckia opening, but the white is nearly all Erigeron anuus, the annual fleabane.  It’s an awesome weed for me and I let it grow wherever it wants, and I don’t think it’s greedy to hope for a blue or pink seedling to show up.

Tomorrow I’m repairing brickwork so that new siding for the addition can come right up to the old construction, where the bricks were pulled down.  I’m not a mason, so hopefully it turns out good enough that nobody notices my mistakes, but the reason I’m doing it is so I can move on to powerwashing the deck and moving deck pots into position.  Then I can re-do the drip lines and then hopefully no more hand watering the pots this summer.  It will be nice finally getting the deck clean and ready for summer since it’s been somewhat neglected with all the debris out there and the mess.  I sat out there on one of the chairs this afternoon and finally moved because a stupid wasp kept buzzing in my ear.  That’s when I noticed the other wasps and turned the pillow over to find the nest I was sitting on.  Hmmm.

It’s still not raining.  There are downpours to the East and downpours to the West but nothing here so I hope tonight’s not a bust.  In any case it’s still better than a February polar vortex 🙂

15 comments on “A Few Things

  1. Paddy Tobin says:

    The search for drought-tolerant plants occupies my mind here also especially those which will grow in dry shade. The nature of our garden has changed over the years as trees have grown and also because of the changes in weather.

    • bittster says:

      I’m finding more shade in my garden as well. Although in the not so distant past I said Epimediums were overrated, I’ve added three new ones this year. That almost doubles what I had, but they do seem to tolerate tree roots, shade, and drought without many complaints.

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        Yes. epimediums are very useful for those challenging positions. I have some large patches of them. They are very easy to increase by division.

  2. We’re supposed to get rain Saturday but that’s the day of my garden tour. So I don’t want rain then. Been up at 5 am all week to water and work in the garden before it gets too hot. Glad you have some plants enjoying your weather and that you have time to sit on the deck. As Paddy Tobin says, it’s hard to know what to plant these days.

    • bittster says:

      I heard some very positive reviews of your garden from the fling, so I think all your watering and finishing off the to-do list did the trick! No one mentioned rain, so I hope it was everything your fingers were crossed for. I hope you’re enjoying the shade and the new deck now, you’ve earned a few days off 😉

  3. Paddy Tobin says:

    We have rain today! I meant to comment on the crinum. We grow C. powellii and its most notable feature is that the bulbs seem to make their way down and down into the ground. An attempt to remove a bulb for a friend some years ago was abandoned at about two feet.

    • bittster says:

      We also just had a passing storm, but the grass is brown and even the clover has become crispy so we will see what tomorrow brings. Plus it was over in all of 15 minutes so I doubt much soaked in… but regardless it’s better than nothing!
      That crinum bulb depth is frightening. This may be the first time I’m thankful for the thin skim of soil which I call topsoil. Unless the roots penetrate the shale underneath… that would be both good and bad, but mostly a reason to let just them grow where they are and pretend it’s what the gardener wants!

  4. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    You have been busy. Your little dog looks cute dashing along the path in the Meadow. I too leave the Erigeon a to grow. It doesn’t hurt anything and I like the little blooms. Definitely do not cause any more mowing opportunities. I giggled at.the fact you sat on a wasps nest. I have a small Strawberry pot that sits on the potting bench and wasps nest there every year. We have yet to have an altercation. Wasps are so elegant. I like to watch them. I hope you get some rain. We need it here. Have a good weekend.

    • bittster says:

      You said I’ve been busy, and I had to go back and review the post because I was positive I wasn’t. But then I saw something about masonry work and deck cleaning and since that was all finished I guess I did get something done!
      I know of a few wasp nests around the yard and I try to let them go and see if they become a problem. Some people will scold me if they find out so I keep quiet, and it’s only been once that anyone was stung after a run-in. In my defense they shouldn’t have hit the nest with a golf club but apparently it was still my fault for knowing about it.
      Enjoy your holiday weekend!

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    Such a shame about the tomatoes, how long will you have to leave that space fallow? I think controlling your own lawn clippings makes sense. Has your MIL changed her tune at all or is that hopeless? Did you accuse her of poisoning her grandkids and grand-dog?! 😀
    Good luck with the masonry work, brave soul. Your deck is a showpiece so glad you’ll be able to enjoy it again (sans wasps, of course). You’re lucky they were in the building stage, because if there were eggs in there, it’d have been a different story!
    We’re short on rain, too. With this weekend predicted to be in the 90s, I’ll be supplemental watering, too. Happy trails!

    • bittster says:

      Ugh the tomatoes… Now it looks like the replacement planting is NOT the type it was supposed to be and I’m starting to think tomatoes were just not meant to happen this year.
      I should leave the space fallow, but since I pulled off most of the mulch I’m hoping the toxins will be dilute enough to not effect other plantings. I wish I knew if they concentrate in a damaged plant or just stay in the soil. I think they concentrate in the plants so maybe I should just let any less resistant weeds grow and hopefully the chemicals break down or dissipate. I still can’t believe a bag of clippings from a lawn fertilized three months ago could be this toxic…. Grrrr
      No one has changed their tune but I’ll keep complaining to anyone who listens. Maybe a tomato crop failure this year will help drive the point home.
      I was wondering why the wasps were still fairly docile. I counted a queen and maybe five workers total so they’re not far into it and don’t feel brave enough to attack. i also came across a nest in an evergreen I was clipping and the same story there, they were annoyed but didn’t attack. I was able to finish and the nest is still there, sure to get bigger. That reminds me, I also need to check on the third nest I saw. Paper wasps do not understand not-attack, so maybe right next to the vegetables is just asking for trouble!

      • Eliza Waters says:

        If I catch their nests early enough, I knock them down and they have to go somewhere else. We just knocked a small one down under the deck railing (nice and sheltered there, smart choice) next to the dining table…that would have been a problem later on! As they are predatory, I like to encourage them, but not where I hang out, thanks.
        Your soil probably is contaminated, they say it breaks down in sunlight, so I’d leave the space exposed and turn the first couple inches every week or two to expose what is below. Herbicides (and pesticides) can be insidious. Round-up is now found in groundwater and wells in most of the midwest and in breast milk, which I find appalling. What are we doing to the planet and ourselves? Insane.
        Happy 4th to you and yours. Hope the Yorkie can handle fireworks tolerably. :-/

  6. Cathy says:

    That red Echium is interesting – I have only ever seen the blue ones which flower at the roadsides here. I tried growing one, but they prefer wilderness it seems! Hope you got some rain, and managed to set up your watering system too. It’ll be good to get your deck ready for summer as it always looks so pretty loaded with flowers! Good luck with the masonry!

    • bittster says:

      I think the preferred habitat for the Echiums is roadside gravel, and that doesn’t say much for my garden so I will just try to be happy something likes it here. I was looking at a nice self-sown Teucrium hircanicum(?) today and wanted to remember to thank you for turning me on to it. It also doesn’t seem to mind drought and poor soil and I’m glad it’s finding a spot to do well in.
      Actually now that I think of it I also wanted to say I found a pink achillea out in the meadow. I think I remember you mentioning in a post you also find one here and there amongst the usual whites. It was a nice surprise!

      • Cathy says:

        Yes, I have been wondering what gives some white plants a pink hue occasionally…. some of our white clover is pink. 🤪

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