Saturday, August 30, 2008

Prenanthes altissima, a.k.a. Tall White Lettuce

Today was cool and overcast, so I ventured out back with the clippers to clear out the overgrown ferns that had clogged my pond path in the woods. I was specifically interested in getting back there so that I could photograph the Indian pipe seed pods, but once I was out there I was surprised by a new plant with delicate, pale green blossoms.

I can’t seem to find any information on this plant other than that it is native to the East Coast, perennial, and lives in shady, moist areas. From a distance it is spindly and not particularly striking, but up-close the blossoms are particularly Art-Nouveau. The leaves come in a variety of shapes, oddly. I’ll see if I can collect seeds from it later.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Lobularia Maritima, a.k.a. Sweet Alyssum

This plant isn’t native to North America, but I thought I would try it out as a filler until I have the budget for creeping phlox. It has turned out to be a much better ornamental and living mulch for the hot, dry front bed than I imagined. Hopefully it won’t drive me nuts with too much reseeding in the future.

I started these from seed indoors over the winter.

Tagetes patula, a.k.a. French Marigold

I am a plant snob. I wouldn’t have planted plain-old non-native ho-hum marigolds if they hadn’t been free, and my garden weren’t in need of filler. But when we moved into the house last year, the seller had aparently tried to spruce up the yard by plunking in a flat of pathetic little marigolds, looking lonely and ineffective in the big dry beds.. I moved them all together for better effect, watered them, collected he seeds, planted those, and watered some more. I then collected a bucket full of second- and third-generation seeds in the fall. Most of those I gave away as Christmas presents to people who would apprecate them more than snobby me. But I still had several cups of seeds, so I planted them to fill up space. Most of them did poorly, and lost the fight against the raspberries and native flowers, but the recent rain spurred the survivors into new growth.

I have to admit, all this orange is causing me to revise my opinion on marigolds. That, and they really seem to make a good filler and living mulch. These offer little of use to the wildlife, but the fact that they lost the fight with the natives speaks volumes for their usefulness as transitional plants until the natives are fully filled-in.

I need to find a native plant with this much glorious orange!

Oenothera Biennis, a.k.a. Evening Primrose

This North-American native is abundant around here in the wild. I suspect most gardeners consider it to be a weed, for that reason. Their loss: not only are the flowers lovely, but the seed-pods attract gold finches. The tough pods can be seen in the fall and winter looking progressively more chewed. I collected the seeds from a power easement last year.

This plant grows best in disturbed sites with poor, dry soil, which describes my front beds perfectly. They are a transition plant in the wild, being the first to appear in disturbed areas. They are then replaced by other plants.

This plant is biennial, so I am surprised to see it flowering this year.

Vernonia Noveboracensis, a.k.a. New York Ironweed

I think this is one of the seed types I planted last autumn. It’s an East-Coast native perennial. So far, only the one stalk has bolted, making it look like a lonesome lollipop in its current location. These tall and gangly stems need to be planted behind another plant to look nice.

Achillea Millefolium, a.k.a. Yarrow

I’m not sure whether this is the native variety of yarrow or not. It was originally growing in our lawn as a weed. I don’t find this perennial to be a spectacular flower for the flower bed, but it thrives in the bright and dry conditions, and has bloomed continuously this summer, even after a bunny munched off the first round of flower buds.

I was surprised to see this same plant growing all over Bend, Oregon.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Monarda Didyma, a.k.a. Scarlet Beebalm

This native perennial followed me home from a plant exchange. I planted one in the shady bed behind the house, and the other up front in one of the sunny and dry beds. Both promptly produced these amazing red flowers. The blooms didn’t last as long as some of the other new flowering plants about the yard, but the blooms are so striking that this is a new favorite of mine.

Google claims that this plant is edible.

Physostegia Virginiana, a.k.a. Obedience Plant

It’s called “obedience plant” because the flower stalks will hold their new position when bent. The plant itself can hardly be called obedient. Another common name for this plant is “false dragonhead”.

This is a North American native perennial that was growing in my garden when I got here. I transplanted clumps of it from its original dry and sunny location to one of my new beds, in another dry and sunny location. It now thrives in both spots.

This plant produces copious quantities of seeds in the fall that are easy to collect.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Liatris Pycnostachya, a.k.a. Prairie Blazing Star

This is the purple flower whose name I couldn’t remember! It’s another US native that I purchased from the Garden in the Woods. And again, it’s a plant that flourishes in the hot, dry conditions of my front beds. I need to plant more of these!

Salvia Coccinea, Scarlet Sage

I originally mis-identified this as cardinalflower, but it is in fact scarlet sage, which is native to the southern US. This particular one followed me home from a garden plant exchange, and has since been blooming like crazy in the semi-shaded bed behind the house.

When photographing the flower yesterday, I turned towards what I thought was an engine starting up in the distance, only to discover it was a humming bird scoping out the blossoms.

I hope this little flower survives the winter, because I would love to have more of these about the yard!

Phlox Paniculata, a.k.a. Border Phlox

This is another Garden In the Woods end-of-season-discount purchase that I’m glad I made. Phlox are perennials native to the eastern US, and apparently they tolerate the hot, dry growing conditions of my front beds.

The colors of this one are a bit bland for my tastes, but this plant has bloomed abundantly.

Coreopsis Verticillata, a.k.a. Threadleaf Tickseed

I purchased this at the Garden In the Woods end-of-season sale without knowing what I was getting. And I’m not disappointed! These perennials produce copious yellow blooms and thrive in my dry, hot front beds. They have been in bloom for over a month now, and it sounds like it will keep going until the first frost.

This plant is native to the southeast of the US.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Miscellaneous Photos. . .

A spider on a cucumber. . .

Pussytoes, if I remember correctly, that I grew from seed. . .

One of the very few honey bees I’ve seen in the yard, on an obedient plant. . .

Pokeweed. . .

Cone Flower. . .

Friday, August 22, 2008

Flower Garden Update

My front flower beds have been mostly neglected for some months now. But this is a good thing, because it has given the more drought-tolerant plants a chance to show themselves. Ultimately, I want these beds to be stuffed with flowers that crowd out weeds and that don’t require much attention from me.

Holy alyssum batman! I thought these purple flowers had finished their display a month ago. They aren’t native, and they aren’t perennial, but they have filled this niche stunningly. If they decide to reseed themselves, I won’t complain.

The marigolds here surprised me here as well, because all spring they had limped along. These are my second-generation marigolds.

Also in this bed: some nasturtiums, which are in bloom but didn’t fare as well as I had hoped; one surprisingly vigorous parsley; and a bee-balm which is now fading, but bloomed beautifully. The plants that didn’t do so well here: a couple of lavenders and a Swiss chard, which are getting crowded out by the faster-growers; and a rhubarb, which wasn’t able to withstand the heat or dry conditions.

This bed hasn’t turned out as nicely, in part because I chose to plant interesting native grasses in it. The problem with the grasses is that they too closely resemble the clumps of grass making up the lawn around it. I need to add more flowers here next year.

Growing conditions in this bed are brutal. The alyssum fared well, as did that native purple flower, which I can’t remember the name of.

This bed is similarly exposed, but has deeper soil. Not everything that I have planted here has survived, but enough flowers have flourished that it is already looking like I envisioned it to look “someday”. For the most part the things I planted here have successfully kept the weeds crowded out.

Currently blooming and thriving here: yarrow, transplanted from the lawn; alyssum; obedient plant; alyssum; marigold; tick seed, which is native; and another native purple flower which I can’t remember the name of. There is also a shrimpy cone flower with one blossom; some pumpkin plants which aren’t thriving, but which keep producing big yellow flowers; daises and dill which have gone to seed; ground cherry, as an experiment; a small lilac; and a Swiss chard.

I love walking outside to look at these plants with Gabe every day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vegetable Garden Update

Between baby, work, and picking copious quantities of tomatoes, Chris has been too busy to post anything to the blog, so I’ll fill in for him today. Gabe, it turns out, finds this wearable sling to be a mighty fine place to take a nap, so I went on a photo tour of the garden.

A few days of rain caused most of the current crop of red tomatoes to split. The yellow and purple tomatoes withstood the change in moisture much better. Despite the loss, Chris still brings in oodles of tomatoes each evening.

It’s a crazy tomato jungle out there.

His green peppers are looking lovely.

My ground cherries, which were either planted by a previous owner, or were completely wild, are growing like gangbusters. But sadly, for the second year in a row, inside of these pretty pods the fruit is rotting before it matures. I am contemplating ripping out the whole diseased patch.

Ground cherry.

The raspberry bushes and strawberries are doing beautifully.

. . .But I fear that the strawberries have ambitions to take over the world.

The asparagus continues to prosper, thanks to Chris’ weeding.

Last but not least, Chris’ ladybugs continue to patrol the garden.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Monarch Butterfly, a.k.a. Danaus Plexippus

A few days before I went into labor, Chris spotted a monarch butterfly caterpillar on some milkweed growing in our yard.

Fearing that monarch caterpillars might be hunted by wasps in the same manner as the tomato horn worms, we moved the caterpillar into the garage. It was as big as my pinky finger already, but we were still surprised to find it preparing to turn into a chrysalis the very next day.

Within two hours, the dangling caterpillar had become a much smaller, much harder to spot chrysalis.

A bit shy of two weeks later, the chrysalis went transparent, revealing the butterfly folded up inside.

And hours later, the butterfly had emerged.

It was raining outside, so I was relieved that he chose to stick around for a while. When I got too close, he fluttered his wings open.

Later, when the rain had passed, the butterfly was gone. But when I looked down, I realized he had only made it a few feet to a clump of grass just outside of the garage. So I carefully relocated him to some flowers in the front yard.

You can tell it is a male by the black nodes in the ribs of the rear wings.

But before I moved the butterfly, I took its picture with Gabe. Gabe wasn’t interested.

Our Lovely Harvest!