September Garden Photos

Photo of yellow haired caterpillar

Close shot of a lemon-colored caterpillar.

 

Photo of small mushrooms on decaying log

This, and the following, some small shelf mushrooms fruiting out of the logs I line my path with.

 

Photo of small mushrooms on decaying log

Photo of small mushrooms on decaying log

Photo of small mushroom on decaying log

Photo of poblano pepper in bloom and fruit

A few weeks ago, I posted a pic of my tiny poblano harvest. But now the plant has taken off in a flower-making frenzy, and I have several new peppers coming along.

 

Photo of morning glory flower

My morning glory, blooming. The color is luck of the draw, since I bought assorted seeds. You can see here the paper-thin petals and the ethereal quality of light shining through the center.

 

Photo of Liriope flower

What the flower of the liriope plant, a groundcover, looks like in close-up.

 

Photo of crookneck squash tiny fruit

Finally, this tiny squash, just starting when I photographed it, has grown in a week to almost full-size.

 

 

 

A Few Things of Interest

Photo of foxglove flowerstalk

At this time of year, you don’t mind seeing the garden chores diminish. There are plenty of other projects to do! One of this year’s foxgloves decided to shoot up its flower stalk after all, a pretty white with dark magenta spots.

 

Photo of foxglove blossom

Here’s what the flower looks like when I hold it upright for the camera.

 

Photo of super closeup foxglove

And in super closeup, we learn something new. The bloom usually hangs down, so the bottom petal has a fringe of hairs, maybe for the pollinator to take hold of; then, there are hairs coming out of all the guide spots going up into the heart. A female ruby-throated hummingbird has been working on this one, but the hair arrangement is probably beneficial to small bees.

 

Photo of morning glory vine

As robust a climbing vine as you could ask for, but this morning glory has yet to make a bloom.

 

Photo of goldenrod and aster

Goldenrod, one of the wildflowers I let grow in the beds, because they bloom late in the season, along with the wild aster in the background, so they do the local insect and bird populations some good.

 

Photo of elephant ear leaf

Pretty veining in dusty purple, with background shading of burgundy and dark green, on this elephant ear leaf.

 

Photo of spotted bird feather

Last week, I had a bat in the garage, which fortunately scared my cats, so they didn’t try to hunt it. I left the door open, and it went away. For the last two nights, something has been giving off rasping shrieks in my yard (unless its prey has been giving them off). Some bird with spotted feathers was made a meal of, but note, of the creature’s remnants, how the feather is translucent and the mulch shows through.

 

 

 

Mature Days of August

Three Poblano peppers (one already cooked with garlic and chicken breasts to make sandwich meat) are my harvest this year. That’s not so bad, because I never usually grow vegetables, thanks to the deer. I gained a handful of Pinto beans, to use for seed next spring—but that was from trying the experiment of sprouting those things I could scavenge from my cabinets. And, as to the experiment, it’s a kind of fun apocalyptic exercise, where you challenge yourself to make a food garden out of whatever you have in your house right now. I learned that peanuts from bird seed sprout easily, but aren’t easy to keep going outdoors, where everything wants to eat them. Later, I bought one tomato plant, but it’s not getting enough sun in its safe location, and hasn’t made a flower…probably too late for fruit to mature at this date. Also, I have a single bell pepper that hasn’t disappeared yet; but it hasn’t got bigger than a pea yet, either.

 

This is an earlier picture of a curious wild grass, with seed heads like wheat. Prairie grasses do a great job conditioning the soil, their habit being to grow from a clump one year, then die at the center and spread out in a circle. The dead roots decompose back into the earth, acting both as fertilizer and having a spongelike effect of absorbing water. This is why the prairie soil of pioneer times was described as rich and black, before overuse degraded it. If you start a bed with prairie grasses, you can easily mow and layer on cardboard or paper, covered with bought topsoil or compost, which you can plant in directly (the roots will make a way)…or just hold it down with leaves, if you want to wait a season and rake off the dead stuff under the cardboard.

 

Another earlier picture of a pretty little red-capped mushroom.

 

Here’s what closeup photography can teach. I think these are some kind of very tiny insect on this monarda bloom. They can’t be seen with the eye.

 

A hibiscus I grew from seed this year. I never noticed, somehow, from growing them in the past, that the flowers last only a day.

 

And here’s the full Georgia O’Keeffe, showing how the little round female parts (I believe) have a ring of hairs that seems to reflect a glow.

 

 

Close Views in the Garden

Photo of lily pads in bog tub

Lily pads in one of my bog tubs. Being stagnant, the tubs have no frogs or fish. I saw a song sparrow plucking out mosquito larvae, a nice natural control for them. The lily pads themselves, when they’ve covered the surface will also keep mosquitoes off.

 

Photo of black-eyed susans

Black-Eyed Susans and a couple of tiny insects.

 

Photo of centaurea bloom

A centaurea in detail, made up of these lily-shaped florets—while the reproductive parts can be seen at the center, so the flower-like shapes are really just a petal formation.

 

Photo of small juniper

A juniper bush that was brought by the birds. I have several of these sprouted up, and I’m allowing some to grow (this one is about a foot tall) because for habitat my yard is a little short on evergreens.

 

Photo of weed with tiny flowers

This weed seems to fool me every year. The leaves look like coneflower, or some other desirable perennial, but when it matures, it puts out clusters of stems sporting the tiniest white flowers. I think it’s really a sort of bur.

 

 

Photo of bumblebee on tithonia flower

A smallish bumblebee that seems the most common type in my yard.

 

Photo of Spicebush Swallowtail in motion

A Spicebush Swallowtail in motion.

 

Photo of Spicebush Swallowtail wing detail

A crispier view of the wing pattern. Some members of this species don’t seem to have the double row of white dots on the upper wings, but I don’t know if that’s a gender distinction. Notice the striking mother-of-pearl coloration on the lower wings.

 

 

Pests and Volunteers

Photo of skeletonized hollyhock leaf

Hollyhocks are typically attacked by the tiny larva of some kind of insect, which skeletonizes the lower leaves, as in this fairly elegant achievement above. Wherever I’ve grown hollyhock, I’ve always seen this pest develop. My gardening practice is radical organic, meaning that in almost every case I don’t interfere at all with bugs and diseases. I let plants employ their own defenses, or otherwise replace them with ones more suited to the immediate challenges. I use only products that are truly harmless—and not all labeled organic are, such as Bacillus thuringiensis. This bacteria may occur naturally in the environment, but never in the quantities used to “organically” control pests. It stands to reason we can’t ramp up one factor in the equation of the biome, without having an altering effect on other factors.

So I allow these creatures to eat my hollyhock leaves, and the hollyhocks (being at the best of times not the tidiest-looking plants) always come back and flower.

 

Photo of columbine leaf miner damage

And here is the work of the columbine leaf miner, a bug I have never tried to get rid of. Individual columbines don’t live for many years. Their garden value is in their ready self-sowing. The leaf miner tends to attack after the ones that are mature enough to bloom have flowered and set seed.

 

Photo of oak leaf gall

Since I always include a gall, if I find one to photograph, here is a forming oak apple gall, a type caused by various tiny wasps. The heat bubble we’re under in southeastern Ohio is, I suspect, the cause of a healthy branch popping off one of my trees…

 

Photo of tiny acorns

From the same branch, here are tiny acorns getting started. They cluster on the twigs just below the new leaves, and if the weather is hot and dry, several may drop off before the crop matures in the fall.

 

Photo of clematis vine

My clematis this year was suffering fungus, that disease called clematis wilt. You can see some malformed leaves that look like a willow tree’s, in the lower left corner, and some of the dried and shriveled ones. I put bone meal in the dirt around the roots, and have been watering steadily. So far, the clematis seems to be recovering. My theory is that bone meal changes the soil pH, and stops the fungus spreading.

 

Photo of hickory tree

I like to inventory those plants that appear voluntarily in my yard. It’s a way of measuring environmental health, and diversity of local plant populations. This seedling looks to be a mockernut hickory, which has a small nut and may have been brought by the deer who like also to browse its new leaves.

Photo of laurel bush

This one looks to be a mountain laurel.

 

Photo of hazelnut

This is a bladdernut, an understory tree/shrub that is one of the few, in fact, with only three leaflets on its compound leaf. The bladdernut’s Latin name is Staphylea trifolia.

 

Photo of pretty coleus

An especially nice coleus grown from seed, with its yellow freckles and almost red heart. So far it hasn’t sent up a flower shoot, so maybe I’ll only get to propagate it if I can get cuttings to survive the winter.

 

Photo of tithonia and blue centaurea

Finally, a couple of nice combos in annuals that should give color through most of the summer. Orange tithonia and bright blue centaurea, above.

 

Photo of dark-leaved sweet potato vine and dusty miller

A shady group with dark-leaved sweet potato vine and silver dusty miller. (Also morning glory, larkspur, and variegated nasturtium.)

 

 

 

Flower Forms

Photo of rudbeckia flower

A fancy variety of rudbeckia grown from seed this year, that ought to be perennial.

 

Photo of monarda flower

Cheerful closeup of a pink monarda. Note the unopened flowers have little hairs coming off the ends.

 

Photo of blue geranium flower

What the inside of a blue perennial geranium flower looks like.

 

Photo of pickerel weed flower

This is the bloom of a pickerel weed, a bog plant. You can see that it’s covered in tiny tipped hairs, like a sundew.

 

Photo of butterfly on milkweed

I don’t know what kind of butterfly this is, enjoying the milkweed. It’s hard to catch one with its upper wings out.

 

Photo of milkweed seedpods

And here’s an inside view of the milkweed hedge, this year producing such clutches of seedpods that the look is a little tropical.

 

Photo of coneflower border

And finally, the abundance of coneflowers along the drive. Not much butterfly traffic so far this year. A fritillary and a yellow, and several of the tiny ones, but only one each of pioneering large butterflies: a monarch and a tiger swallowtail. The populations may pick up in late summer. And I have goldfinches feeding in this bed, mostly on tithonia seed.

 

 

 

 

Preservation of Habitat

Photo of large pin oak

For scale, this is a shot of one venerable pin oak in my back yard. (There are two.) This tree is probably not a hundred years old. The house was built in 1962; the oak has lived on for fifty-eight years, and might have been twenty or thirty years old when it and its friend were saved as a feature of the property. It could not have been very old, or the construction would have damaged its root system.

Going on from there, I want you to think how rarely, when you walk through a woodland, or state park forest, you see trees of this girth. Only areas preserved to protect significant trees are likely to have many several feet in circumference. “Old-growth” forest, of course, has trees of all ages, part of any habitat’s continual recreation of itself. But a hundred-year-old tree today still was born in the twentieth century. The woods and all they support: birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, fungi, mosses, shrubs, wildflowers, ferns, etc., have to have been sustained in close to their condition when the most endangered species thrived there, for those species to thrive today.

Logged land that has grown back since the 1920s may look old, but represents a minor span in the history of—let’s say for the sake of argument—the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. If we want to believe some undiscovered population is still alive, we have to believe there are woods left alone from the time the last one was seen (1944, in the Singer Tract, which was destroyed). If, in the United States, no habitat for the Ivory-billed has been sustained since the 1940s, having the same mix of trees, allowed to live and die as nature dictates, then the survival of the species is unlikely.

All of which warns us that we can’t fall for restoration as the reassuring answer to environmental depredation. It’s easy to say that forests cut down can be replanted. Restoration projects are important and need to continue. But plans for the future, or the fact that it’s possible to make them, should not become an acceptable compromise against preservation.

Only commitment to both preserve and limit wild areas to human access will slow the rate of extinction, erosion, watershed alterations that lead to drought, and other effects we are running out of time to forestall.

 

Photo of bright orange daylily

I don’t take the trouble to label my daylilies, so I don’t know what their names are, but this is one of my favorite oranges.

 

Photo of deep ink daylily

And here’s a deep pink.

 

Photo of driveway border bed

And here is the front border by the driveway, already looking good with a lot of pinks and whites, but several more blooms to come.

 

 

Wildlife in the Garden

 

Photo of deer mother and babies

These are the guilty parties who have been nipping the heads off my daylilies. We had a bad convergence the other day, rain into the night, that prevented spraying the vulnerable flowers; then dry weather when it was too late to go out. That made a window of opportunity for Mama Deer and her babies.

 

Photo of deer trail through flowerbed

Photo of deer trail through flowerbed

Above are two deer trails I have created/enhanced in my under-tree bed. They look delicate, but deer have a tendency to blunder through the garden, knocking over edging, stepping on and breaking, or grinding, some of the flowers you were hoping to keep. I have four bits of advice for coexisting with deer:

1) Allow natural areas in your lawn; don’t take away all their usual food by having too-perfect grass. 2) Plant mostly deer-resistant flowers. 3) Spray the endangered things, including veg, that you want to protect from them. 4) Plant lots of anything you hope to see flower or fruit. A few will eke through under cover of other plants.

 

Photo close-up of squirrel nest

The squirrel population has been burgeoning this year. They’ve built themselves a squirrel McMansion up in the oak. But today, in a surprising and excellent development, I looked out my window and saw a Golden Eagle perched on the lawn. The squirrels were frozen in various semi-hiding places, giving off warning signals. It seems the rabbit population has gone down, so predators that depend on them may have to hunt other prey.

 

Photo of poison ivy leaves

Leaves of three. When poison ivy plants are just getting started, they don’t always have the characteristic lobes or teeth. One that looks like this, though it might disguise itself as a wildflower or shrub, is just as bad as the others.

 

Photo of garden pathway

This is the garden pathway, showing the deer trail pictured above, branching off. I load on as many fallen leaves as I can in autumn and winter, and you can see how completely they’ve decomposed by summer. Meanwhile, all the branches that come down make nice defining edges.

 

Photo close-up of nicotiana flower

Close-up of a nicotiana blossom, a nice purple, which seems to be one of the rarer colors.

 

Photo of cleome flower

Cleome is a funny sort of creature. The plants smell like sour lemon; they make these curious flowers with stamens like bundles of computer cable, and as the flowers fade, each petal/sepal (whatever it is) curls up like this, in a row. And they have thorns. Cleome are also super-easy to propagate from cuttings. Just include a leaf node on a piece of stem, and stick into moist garden soil directly.

 

Photo close-up of ageratum bloom

I always plant ageratum, reliable grown from seed; the periwinkle blue is a great accent to any other color. In this tight shot, you can see what the flower form really is.

 

 

Garden Upcycling

 

We don’t like plastic going into our waterways and woods. But the fact is companies that distribute millions of plastic containers along with their products don’t come near 100% recycling of those same containers. And if they don’t take back their plastic, it stands to reason the plastic we faithfully recycle can’t be getting reused. Any number of articles, such as this from The Guardian, confirm it. The best thing we can do with plastic is substitute what we take in for something we might otherwise buy. The effort will be small, per person, but the more people who get in the habit, the greater the cumulative gain. Most plastic things we bring into our homes are containers of some kind. Storage tubs that come with butter or yogurt, are easily cycled onwards as…storage tubs. When you start upcycling containers into crafts: candle holders, pencil holders—crafting supply holders, for that matter—you run out of need for such items pretty quickly.

There are a number of uses gardeners can get out of the plastics we accumulate. A few ideas, below:

 

Photo of lip balm tubes

Lip balm tubes are odd things. They’re inconveniently sized, as to causing trouble for wildlife, ocean creatures in particular. The little bullets are mostly empty, as you see above, with the labels stripped off.

 

Photo of lip balm product

And this is how much product is left after the mechanism stops screwing any more above the tube’s edge. You won’t enjoy the leftover as lip balm, unless you don’t mind the nuisance of fingering it out. You can, though, use it as a fingernail/toenail treatment. It’s mostly wax. Meanwhile, the tubes, as demonstrated, can be used by gardeners to store seed we collect. Let your seed dry completely before you seal it away.

 

Photo of pot cut to be plant collar

Sometimes animals insist on digging up things you’ve just planted. You can make protective collars, cut a nursery pot with teeth at the bottom like this, sharp enough to penetrate soft soil. Otherwise, anchor them with sticks.

 

Photo of larkspurs with collars

Here are two larkspurs that needed help, after being repeatedly trampled and bothered with.

 

Photo of water jugs

Three things you can do with water jugs (some of which are also refillable at the store.) First, you can cut them in half to make cloches for protecting tender seedlings from frost, or encouraging cuttings to root. Second, use them as intended, fill them from the hose and carry all the water you need to the back of the garden in one wheelbarrow load. Third, save them until you have several, fill them two-thirds, and build a rectangle. Cap it with a piece of Plexiglas, an old window, or one of those plastic sheets used for dropped ceiling light fixtures, and you have a cold frame for starting early vegetables.

 

Photo of cat treat container

Finally, for today’s ideas, these jumbo cat treat containers are fine for human treats, too.