Thursday, July 29, 2010

Crab bed blues

(please click to enlarge, then (+) for sharper focus)

I've not shown a pic of the new (made last year, planted this year) crab bed lately. With the weird weather this season (early heat, early deluges then just heat and no rain) it's been slow to fill in.

From front to back, the center contains a line of English lavender, a line of purple basil, a line of golden jubilee hyssop and (out of sight) a line of lilyturf. The end caps have a central planting of salvia splendens flanked by two tubular hyssops varieties - 'apricot sprite' and 'Apache sunset'. There are also a couple of bedding geraniums that are struggling. And let's not forget the bed's namesake - the 2 Robinson crabapples.

The salvias are just now starting to bloom as are the golden jubilee. The tubular hyssops - well, maybe soon. Or not -- like I say, the weather is playing havoc.

Overall, I'm not happy with this bed. With the grey-green lavenders (small blue flowers), the grey-green catmints (small blue flowers), and the grey-green tubular hyssops this bed looks faded, washed out. Then there is the sharp contrast between the purple basil/golden jubilee (small blue flowers) that is kinda jarring.

I know that the salvia splendens (Yvonne's salvia) will soon bloom and I'll enjoy the red (which I crave but so far have gotten very little in any of the beds this year).

It's redeeming feature? The bees really go for the golden jubilee and the cabbage butterflies practically lived on the lavender & catmint when they were in bloom. (Unfortunately the tiny, almost invisible basil blooms aren't getting any action.)

Anyway, I'm not happy so, bottom line, I'll probably redo the whole thing next year.

Except for the crabs, of course.

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[As always - use the links on the top of the sidebar to see more of my garden posts.]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Breaking weather, breaking buds

Monday morning I was out on the deck enjoying a steaming cup of coffee while I was bundled up in a cozy long-sleeved shirt.

Whoa! Why all the warmy stuff?

Check out the thermometer: 52 degrees!!

Today it was a little warmer this morning - 57 degrees.

The rain that blew through Saturday & Sunday night not only gave us 1.4" of rain (yippee yay!), but cooled the air and dried us out for a couple of days.

Everything was chipper yesterday. The birds with birdier, the squirrels squirrlier, the plants were perky and I was feeling pretty darn good myself! It only got up to 75 here yesterday.

I got a lot of trimming, pruning, re-arranging, and general tidying up around the deck and close beds.

What a difference 20 degrees make to this limp and listless lass. :-D

Today is supposed to get into the 80s while tomorrow, the 90s. Ick.

But the good thing is the nights aren't going to be in the mid-70s anymore but back to the low/mid 60s. That was the worse part - never getting a nighttime cool down.

Now I can turn off the A/C and open the windows again.

And that feels soooo goooood.
* * *

Meanwhile, back on the 'too much, too soon' subject:

The hardy pink hibiscus is easily 3-4 weeks early this year. I'd mentioned before how precocious they were, shooting up like a rocket from the get-go.

Now those early buds I'd posted about before are getting ready to *pop*.

So much for my late-August, early-September color up by the sunroom. *gloom*

Well, the flip side is that since the annuals were so set back, I'm hoping they'll come on and give me a nice show. Already the salvias are breaking bud and as for the lobelia, check out today's update on the flower page.

Hope you all are getting some weather breaks your way too!

Saturday, July 24, 2010


There was an enormous amount of rain activity to the north of us last night - nothing but orange and red racing from west to east on the radars.

I ached for some of that to slip down our way, even if it was fleeting.

Luckily, around midnight, a spur of that bounty swept across our area and I was dancing happy this morning to find .8" of rain in the gauge.

It's in the 90s again today, but at least the gardens have had a drink.

And maybe maybe maybe we'll get another shower today from some passing storm.

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Some of you may not realize, but I do a LOT of posting on my other blog pages for flowers, vegetables, garden projects, etc. Check the top of the sidebar. I list the post date on the link so you'll always know when I'm blogging over there. :-D

Why not check them out?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It's still hot and I'm still cranky

It's still hot. It's still humid. It still doesn't rain. We've had less than an inch in the whole month!

It's making me cranky.

I found myself at Lowe's for some MORE wood filler for the shed where the carpenter bees are tearing it apart (refer to 'garden projects page') and wandered over to the nursery.

Nothing there really struck me except a display of small butterfly bushes. I needed some instant gratification so ponied up for something new - a color called Honeycomb. I'd seen them on another blog and knew that some day I would have one.

Now I have one. I installed it in the arbor garden (removing a sedum that needed to be transplanted anyway). I hope this will get lush over the years and make a nice statement on the far side of the arbor.

Another reason I'm so cranky and why I truly needed some gratification is displayed here.

Glenda in the Ozarks commented that I appeared to be winning the milkweed war in the stump bed battle.

Not so. The green ring has been the battle zone where I'd originally planted that *#( thing.

Today I've found a sprout out in the lawn!!

I can't tell you how much this thrills me.....:-(

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I've found a native bee nest.

I was going around cutting off remaining daffodil leaves and found this bundle in the stump bed. I was delighted to see that under them there were native bees using an abandoned chipmunk tunnel to nest in. Evidently the dead leaves provide shade in the hot afternoon sun, so I left them alone.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, on the other side of the stump bed, milkweed wars continue. You can see that I've cleared a circle maybe 20" wide where I do battle. I'd dug up as many roots as I can a couple of weeks ago and now I watch.
I'm sure that lack of rain has slowed them down as I'd not seen any new shoots for a couple of weeks. A false sense of triumph though.

Yesterday I found 2 new shoots.

Today I'll dig down alongside both of them as far as I can go without breaking them, then paint the shafts with herbicide.

All this from one plant! I can't imagine what battle I'll have to do with the 2 full 6' length of plantings I'd put in the ring bed (I'll bet I'd planted a dozen HOS in each planting!). *fume*

I may have to rent one of those little baby backhoes..... >:-(

An update :

20 minutes of hard digging (baked clay, mostly) garnered this batch of roots. I had to go down almost 12" to get these, because the roots don't grow sideways, just up and down. When they 'run' they send a root out sideways for a few inches, then start heading down again.

When I initially dug out the plants 5-6 weeks ago, I'd gotten at least as many roots then as now. So those suckers are still viable. Grrrrrr. See how long the sprouts are for just the 1" that showed yesterday. Obviously they didn't have any trouble breaking through the hard clay.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Too much, too soon

I've been meaning to post how the early Spring and continued high heat have accelerated many of my fall-blooming plants.

Take, for instance this August Moon hosta. This usually sends up stalks around the 1st of August, almost to the day. Here you can see many scapes have appeared and it's only mid-July.

Here is one of my Autumn Joy sedums, not only fully budded, but breaking into bloom. This is at least a month early.

The cannas, while their bright red flames are truly appreciated, they usually pop around the end of July, early August.

And here, my hardy hibiscus, (I refer to it as my September star because I can count on a big blast of dark pink blooms to take me into Fall). This plant should only be 3 feet tall right now with no signs of bud.

And it's not just plants that have been accelerated. Fireflies, usually a July event, began displaying on the evening of June 9th. Cicadas started singing way before July. And last night, when I returned from a late outing, I stood on the deck - stunned - by the call of crickets. Crickets!! I can't tell you how early this is.

I should also mention that my annuals are not thriving at all this year. The zins that are (finally!) blooming are small. All my salvias (spendens, subrotunta & elegans) are yet to flower. And even the sunflowers are only 3 feet tall and also without blooms at this point. Bee balms that used to wave at 3-4 feet are 14" with meager blooms too.

All this and more has really made me take notice. If all my fall perennials bloom this early, if the annuals merely sputter, if the Fall insects come and go in mid-summer, what sort of September/October will we have? Bloomless? Bugless? Bare?

P.S. For more fast-track plants, check out my Flower and Vegetable blog pages (top of sidebar).

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's me or the milkweed

As I stated in my last post, planting common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is the biggest mistake I've made in years!

I mentioned in that post that if cut down, they readily re sprout from the roots. Today I found a sprout a good 15" from any planting I made. So it runs!

I ran too. To get the loppers.

Down they came. So did the other stand. Then I hauled their gooey, latex-dripping carcasses over to the township yard waste site.

Okay. First strike. I don't know if I should dig up the roots or try and kill them with herbicide.

Either way, it's total war. I'll have to paint sprouts with full-strength herbicide for who knows how long.

The single monarch that floats around the ring bed seems unconcerned. It's never visited the common, preferring to spend its day on the 'ice ballet' or incarnata milkweeds. It also likes the zins that are beginning to bloom, so worry not about the monarchs. There's still plenty of larvae lunch around here.

P.S. I've removed the link for "Free Milkweed Seeds" from the sidebar. 'Nuff said.

P.P.S. This very afternoon I watched the monarch find a friend, dance, and is right now laying eggs on both the ice ballet and incarnata milkweeds. :-D

Monday, July 12, 2010

Milkweed mayhem

Houston, we have a problem!!

The common milkweed (asclepias 'syriaca') is a major disaster.

First off, now that they are blooming on their 5-6' stalks, the only 'pollinator' they attract are Japanese beetles. The plants are heavy with them.

Second off, the stalks are prone to being blown down by wind or pushed down by heavy rainfall.

And third (and this is something everyone considering planting them should be WARNED OF) is that they are pervasive. Last year I had 2 seedlings with no where to put them so temporarily healed them in the stump bed and the crab bed. When they came up this Spring I dug them up and put them in the ring bed.

In a couple of weeks, I dug them up again (from the stump & crab bed) and composted them. And again. And again. It seemed that no matter how deeply I dug, how carefully I sifted the soil, new sprouts come up from roots that travel down to China.

Now when I see sprouts, I paint them with full-strength Kilz-all herbicide. I WILL get them out of the stump/crab beds.

As for my previous post where I mentioned I would be removing them from the ring bed, I'm now forewarned. I will not try to dig them up lest I sever/stimulate the roots. I will cut them down instead and begin a regiment of Kilz-all directly to each stalk. It may take some time to do the job, but they will be removed! For the moment, however, I've cut off all their tops/flowers to thwart the beetles.

Don't you just HATE it when something you dreamed of turns out to be a garden nightmare?

As for the asclepias incarnata & asclepias 'ice ballet' - they seem well behaved, beautiful, attracting bees by the bushel and smell like heaven. They can stay. But I'll keep an eye on them too.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Finally! Things are humming!

Bee activity has picked up considerably of late. Scarcely any to be seen through June, but now that it is hot and arid, they have found the sanctuary. Last year the white clover bloomed early in June. This year the heat (and previous rains) allowed the grass to out grow it. But now there is also enough of a bloom to attract them.

The milkweeds have been blooming for weeks, but is only in the past few days that they have seen any action. Now they are covered - you can hear humming from 3-4 feet away. I've seen honeybees, native bees, giant wasps, hover bees, metallic bees, flies, and butterflies (cabbage, frittilaries & the occasional monarch - no skippers yet).

This is a first time bloom for my 3 varieties of milkweeds (swamp, ice ballet & common). The first 2 have lovely blooms with a strong honey fragrance. The common? Not so much. Their blooms are pendulous and floppy and the only thing that is feasting on them are the Japanese beetles. I will probably remove them from the garden (unless I eventually see some Monarch larvae on them).

I read that there is so much nectar in the milkweed blooms that sometimes bees get stuck in them. I've seen this first hand and have helped free several honeybees already. They seem to get a hind leg stuck in the nectar cup and they can't pull away. So I use a bit of a stick or something for them to hang onto and I pull them out.

I can see what all the hype is about this plant and it's attraction. The fragrance is nothing short of sweet intoxication. I don't know how long the plants will bloom, but they are a wonderful addition to the bee forage ring bed. If I do pull out the common milkweed, I will replace those 2 plantings with more swamp (pink) and ice ballet (5% white) unless I acquire other types that might also be as successful (and beautiful). Advice would be welcome!

Now that the bees are in the milkweed and on the clover, they are also enjoying the lavender and catmint. The phlox is also getting a little action and now that the lavender hyssop has started to bloom, they should soon be covered with busy bees. Yay! :-D

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Enjoying the cool

It's COOOOOOL outside.

The front that moved through Monday brought not only the rain mentioned in the last post, but cool cool temps. Yesterday morning it was 49! This morning it is 48! Yesterday it only got up to 69, with a cool North breeze all day. Humidity down to 37%. The opal basil has perked up. All the plants have perked up.

I've perked up!

While in this perky mood, I'm trying to get a lot done before the 80s hit us again this weekend then 90s next week with no rain in sight at all - just bright beating sun. *whine*

To see what I've been up to on these beautiful brisk days, check out the my other blog pages listed on the top of the sidebar.

Today I'm off to Stan Hywett and the farmers' market up in Akron. Today it will only get into the low 70s so a perfect day to tour the mansion grounds and pick up some fresh veggies.