Thursday, August 28, 2014

Things to remember next spring.

Summer is short here and this is the point in the growing season when I try to figure
out what went wrong and how to avoid screwing it up next year.  

It not a good idea to rely on the bunnies to prune the smokebush.

Even though Cotinus coggygria is the funniest scientific name ever  and it possesses
fantastic spring and fall color, it just gets too big and keeps the poppies from blooming.

I will not walk barefoot under the oak trees (Quercus Alba, another silly sounding name).

Don't pass up unique plants because they're too big to carry. I love peonies and there
were some beautiful dark rose plants at the Farmers Market this spring. Why didn't
I buy them when I had the chance?  Afterwards I looked everywhere for them with no luck!

Planing impatiens around the Elwood's pond is a thing of the past. This was early July...

and this was mid August. Downy Mildew is the culprit and it is everywhere now.
The water lettuce disappeared too, but that is a mystery yet to be solved.

On the bright side, the ones in the window box just a few feet away are still fine.
It's most likely due to the fact that they're off the ground and stay dry even when it rains.
That doesn't change the basic problem though and I'll miss those pretty colors.

Speaking of window boxes, last April this little lady was after a snack she'd buried in the
one outside my kitchen sink. A few weeks later she gnawed a hole in the facia of our patio
and raised a family in the space between the roof and the ceiling. They were adorable babies
but the patio now has a steel facia so she's going to have to look elsewhere next spring.

Cherry tomatoes definitely grow better in pots than the regular varieties.

Volunteer hollyhock do not succumb to diseases like the hybrid nursery plants or the ones planted from seed. There's no choice of color though I love the black and deep burgundy ones that started
coming up a couple years ago. Where they decide to plant themselves is not always perfect but they're easy enough to weed out. Can't be picky about details with healthy freebies.

False Indigo also needs support to stay upright and not flop over on top of the
foxgloves and catmint. This is in reference to the cages I forgot to put around them.

How did I forget to replant these? Some new ideas and an optimistic plan or two are all I need to
put current disasters in the past and look forward to next year. Honest. Chipmunks and squirrels
will always dig up the seeds and hide nuts in the planters, but there are things I can fix or remember to actually do next year. So what did you learn from your garden or do differently next year?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cute Bees and Hairy Spiders

There's always been lots of bumble bees in my backyard and they seem
particularly happy with the new Carl sedum. It's one of those reliable
old plants that blooms late and looks pretty good until the first frost.

Though the older varieties can be a little on the dull side, new ones have come on
the market lately in a neon pink and I just couldn't resist adding a couple to my garden.

The rainy weather pattern continues, even when the sun is shining.
At least now that it's hot and humid it finally feels like summer.

Meanwhile, the Morning Glory occasionally tosses out a bloom or two
while continuing to weirdly transform itself into the "Jolly Green Arbor".

Hiding underneath all those leaves there are actually a few blooms.

I've been chasing after the Cabbage butterflies with my camera for weeks but they're just so fast!
They mostly end up as blurry white blobs in my pictures, this one must have been tired.

Judging by the look of the ornamental cabbage, there will be a few of them next year, too.

It's been a struggle all summer to keep my most calamitous window boxes looking
at least half-way presentable, especially the ones near the front of the house.

Last spring I made a bad choice in the front window boxes by planting calibrachoa and
petunias with ornamental cabbage and bacopa. They looked great for a couple of weeks.
Then the cabbage plants and the bacopa grew way too big and crowded out the poor flowers.
Last week I gave the bacopa a haircut, dug out the spider infested cabbage and replanted them
with purple chrysanthemums for fall. It's just too embarrassing to show the before photos.

 Of course there were spiders EVERYWHERE!!! Look at those hairy legs.  Eeeek!!!

These two showed up when I was nearly done with the replanting. I'd become sort of used to
them so I decided to stop and take some photos. What happened next was pretty creepy.

All of a sudden the big spider jumped on the little one,  there was some blurry movement
and well, let's say it was time to get busy and finish planting the window boxes.  I also
needed to check out how many of our neighbors noticed me standing on the ladder screaming.

Okay, and it's back to the cute bees. Sorry for being absent for so long, we entertained
out of town guests and had repairmen show up two weeks early to fix our patio. Quite an
unexpected but pleasant amount of excitement. Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

This Morning with Sunshine

This morning the sun decided to shine! 
A big change from the cold and rainy days we've been having.

It has meant less watering and luckily no time spent cooped up inside in the AC.
Of course there has been the accompanying fungal diseases and molds.

This interesting hollyhock leaf (Alcea rosea, as long as I'm being scientific)
was just ripe with rust pustules. Pretty gross, huh? The botanical name is
  Puccinia malvacearum, which sounds more like an Italian opera than a
fungus. Have to admit I find these disgusting diseases really fascinating.

While I was out taking advantage of the rare phenomenon known as sunlight I happened
upon this little bumble bee. As usual I assumed the worst. However, curiosity got
the best of me and after a one sided conversation I was reassured that all was okay

with a high five from Ms. Bee.

Possibly too much partying with these flashy characters? They had nothing to say for themselves. 

It just goes to show that things can look different in a change of light.

Some things look prettier,

others look more strange,

and some always look the same, no matter what.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Butterflies, Moths and Spiders, oh my!

Recently there has been a new visitor to my backyard.

It's rare to see a different butterfly in my garden. So after an appropriate amount of
gawking I looked it up and discovered it's a dark female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

Actually, they're usually yellow and I see them almost every day.
I would've never imagined that they were the same butterfly.

She does look classy in her little black dress though.

Then there is this stranger. At first I thought it was just another bumble bee
but then I realized it has transparent wings and acts like a hummingbird moth.

Last summer this was one of the several hummingbird-like moths that dropped in.
It's wings were way to fast for my old camera.

Another one from last year, with blurry wings. Love the fur cape.

I didn't want to leave out the Red Admirals since they stop by nearly every day.
 After looking through my photos of flyers I noticed that while all the
butterflies were on purple flowers, the moths were on white ones. It's just an
observation, as usual I haven't been able to find any information explaining it.

Looking out the window this morning I saw another new arrival.

Finally, two Morning Glory flowers! I'd given up on them blooming this year.

Then there are those OTHER critters that are everywhere this time of year.

Occasionally they do inadvertently cause cute things to happen.
I didn't even notice the heart made out of pieces of dead plant caught in the 
web until I looked at the photos. The spider was hiding under the petunias.  

After Halloween last year I forgot to put away the witch broom and it ended up in the
umbrella stand near the front door. I just noticed that a spider has decided to camp out
 in it. Creepy, as well as clear evidence of my lack of interest in cleaning, sorry Mom.

Speaking of Halloween, I spotted these guys at the local garden center. No actual pumpkins yet.

Ok, is it ever too early to start thinking about Halloween? I prefer handmade
decorations especially for fall but just couldn't resist these measuring spoons.
Not that I'm wishing away summer now that it's finally here!
Hope everyone is enjoying a great weekend!