A Few Things

The first photo shows this year’s deer. My yard, as a territory, usually has a semi-resident female and offspring, but a male deer, who I call Derek, has been growing antlers and browsing at the bird feeder through the summer. He had little velvet spikes, that turned into double points, and are now cleaned of velvet, while he’s grown much larger, and turned from fawn-color to grey for the winter.

In the second photo, a few more bulbs. Bluestone Perennials was having a 50% off sale, so I picked up some allium, Ornithogalum, Dutch Iris, and daffodils, and made combos of them in these yogurt tubs. In the deer photo, you can see the path edges, where I’m planning to have bulbs all the way along, though buying them one year at a time. 

Finally, this bread pudding turned out really tasty, so I’ll tell the story and share what’s in it. The “shortages” meant I could only find a half gallon jug of half-and-half, which I only buy for coffee. It usually lasts well in quart sizes, but this jug must have been the worse for shipping, because it went bad after a couple of days. Then I had almost 8 cups of product to use for some purpose. I baked two cakes to freeze and still had half the jug left. I looked up bread pudding recipes, and none were quite big enough. But the whole purpose of bread pudding is to use up things you would otherwise throw away, so recipes are only guidelines. I didn’t have bread, but I had lemon and spice cakes. This pudding has 4 cups of half-and-half, simmered and mixed with a tablespoon each of sugar and cornstarch (mix these two together to avoid the cornstarch clumping). It has about six loaf-style slices of lemon cake, and the equivalent of four slices of spice cake. The milk is mixed with two eggs, stirred; and everything is topped with pecans.

  

Planting Out Week

Photo of backyard border bed

Last week, we were in the gloom; this week, serious spring has settled in, with temperatures forecast for the eighties in the coming week. Here is a view of the bed I showed a couple of posts back, when I talked about how many plants it takes to fill one. I now have it fully stocked with annuals: poppies, Centaurea, Scabiosa, sunflowers, Tithonias, ageratum, feverfew (a perennial). With luck, Clarkia and annual phlox, but I’m growing them for the first time, so I can’t be sure until they flower. Mostly choices that are deer resistant. (And one really lonely allium, that got included by mistake with the daffodils.)

 

Photo of vegetable bed protected from deer

This is the way I’m experimenting with protecting my vegetables. I’ve never been able to grow many edibles, because of the deer, but that’s been partly my not wanting to construct fencing. I may yet need to make metal grid fences, but what I have here is a double baffle, a kind of deer discourager that I’ve read about and that strikes me as logical. I have an inside section of netting, strung onto bamboo stakes, then an outside section of additional stakes. The concept is that the deer will try to push their noses in, find one baffle, the outer row of stakes; and if they try further, a second baffle, the inside netting, which confusion leaves them too uncertain of safety to venture more.

Double rows of fencing, spaced at four feet apart, are recommended for this method when you’re making the investment of a serious fence. 

 

Photo of wild aster foliage

Above, a pair of wild plants that turn up in the garden, and that have elegant, attractive foliage. The first is narrow-leaf plantain, which also will form a sort of ground cover, and has the little bullet flowerheads, that some of you, like I did in childhood, may have “shot” by wrapping the stem around itself and sliding the loop to detach the flower. The second is a late-summer aster. Some aster species have broader leaves, but this one, which will bloom with a tiny white flower, has grassy leaves that look pretty most of the season. Asters are pests as well as beneficial, seeding everywhere, but they bloom when pollinators need them, so are worth allowing (to a point).  

 

Photo of ground ivy in flower

Ground ivy has a certain charm when it’s in bloom, with its little bluish flowers dotting among the grasses. It was brought to North America by European immigrants, for its medicinal uses, to cure coughs and bronchitis, also arthritis and tinnitus, and a few other conditions. So while we wait for Universal Health Care 😉, try some ground ivy, free and abundant, and good for the insect population in any case. 

 

Photo of white foxglove

An almost perfect white foxglove. It barely even has spots, a claim the named white varieties don’t seem able to match. I’d have to propagate it by cuttings, since the seeds have probably been compromised already by the nearby pink foxglove.

 

Photo of clematis flower

Last year I treated my clematis with bonemeal, and this year it’s taken off, climbing the arbor for the first time. It’s an average jackmanii as far as I know, but the flowers are also coming larger and more burgundy than purple. (The camera gives a magenta appearance, but the true life shade is deeper.)

 

Photo of Japanese painted fern with green sport

One of my Japanese painted ferns, has sported (in horticulture, a sport is a stem or branch that features a different color or appearance from the main plant). Even though it’s a plain lime green, it makes a good-looking “second fern” in its own right.

 

 

May Gloom and Deer Management

We seem to get this spell each May, around mid-month, just when it looks like the weather will hold and the gardening can really start. Nights in the thirties, daytimes in the fifties! Lots of rain. Rain, I don’t complain about, but I do like some warmth. Also, it seems like every time I’ve gone around and sprayed Liquid Fence, another squall arrives with the worst timing. Ten or eleven at night, so it’s too late to go back and do the spraying over. A couple of days ago I lost the tops of a few lilies…but, I have that stand of three in a vulnerable location, and I’ve violated one of my own rules: Anything you want, plant a lot of. The plus of lilies, aside from beauty and fragrance, is that they’ll bloom the same season you plant them, and the cheap bags of bulbs at Walmart perform just fine (a dollar a bulb, with maybe one or two duds).

Above, the other sort of damage the deer are good at. I think as they make their way in the dark, they go by smell more than sight, since I often find the logs and small branches I use to border paths knocked out of place. And beds with new plantings walked over, the seedlings flattened and torn.

Meanwhile, with the oaks, all my beds are full of acorns, so the squirrels are constantly digging.

One of the ideas people get, which sounds surface-plausible, is that feeding wildlife attracts more wildlife. Environmentally conscious gardeners want wildlife, of course. But whether you do or don’t make habitat, your patch of land would normally support a certain amount of life, from fungus to barn owls. Animals, even insects, are territorial, so providing habitat suitable for deer or foxes…or snakes, or yellowjackets…can’t lead to an endless chain of new creatures, burgeoning into unmanageable numbers.

The deer have a problem to solve: they want to eat. Your yard is part of the territory the local family group forages, and did (ancestrally) before your house was built, the trees were cut down, the grass was mowed, etc. You have a problem to solve: you want the deer to leave your nice things alone. It should be clear that trying to drive the deer away, or block them off, solves your problem but not theirs. Still wanting to eat, they keep seeking to do it. Which is why I mow paths around areas in my yard I leave natural, making food lots and shelter for the deer. You can see from my postings that I have a lot of good garden, despite that fact that my yard isn’t just crossed by deer—the deer live a part of their lives here. They shelter and feed here; the mothers leave their babies in my beds while they go off to browse alone. 

This one I call the well bed. I’ve got Japanese painted ferns, Astilbe, Rodgersia, and Black Gamecock Louisiana Iris, so far. And rampant peppermint. When I moved here, I kept noticing how the water after a heavy rain would pool up in an almost perfect circle right here. I suspected a filled-in well from old times, when these outskirts of town that became subdivisions, had farms. I figured an old well wasn’t necessarily safe for walking over, with the water still filtering down, shifting the substrata. The whole back area of my yard seems to have an underlying spring, which as I’ve mentioned, creates a microclimate. The soil retains a lot of moisture, but the plants seem to love it. I attribute that to a huge amount of earthworm activity, keeping the soil aerated, nutritious, and not boggy. Water continues to pool in the well bed and drain off slowly.

 

A couple of years ago I noticed some delicate little leaves, a very tiny plant altogether, but one that began, after the second year of modest growth, to resemble a fern. This year, it’s put up a genuine leaf. I’ve never seen a fern grow in the garden from a spore. On a related note, I was watching an episode of the British show Gardener’s World, and they were showcasing tree ferns. Tree ferns, with a nice Jurassic look to them, can be grown from root segments, so the selling of them appears sustainable. Looking online, I found some sellers offering spores. Well, if an Ohio fern takes three years to form its first identifiable leaf, I think it’s advisable not to wait for a tree fern to grown from a spore.  

Extravagant ruffly glamor. A purple Bearded Iris that turns out to have impressive depths, with its veins and burgundy centers.

I wanted to share the most beautiful columbine. It created itself, coming up from a plainer one’s seed, and has blue semi-double center petals with what looks like white picotee edging; contrasting purple spurs. But this shot may be a little too macro. Who would have guessed columbine petals had that sheared mink effect?

A nicely crafted bird’s nest that fell from the pear tree. As clean as it is, it must have blown out or gotten knocked down by some creature, without having been used. A lot of visible care taken, with the outer large, and inner small, woven grasses.

Here’s my problem to solve, for next bulb-ordering season. I’m not the only one with Lonely Alliums…a lot of the showplace gardens in the videos have them too. They bloom when the daffodils are finished, when the perennials haven’t started, and the annuals can’t yet be set out. So what sort of complementary color and form will reliably mingle with them, and bloom at the same time? I’ll have to do some research.

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.

 

 

Do We Have the Gall?

Photo of gall on azalea leaf

Here is a fascinating one, of a type I’ve never seen. This azalea leaf has been mutated by whatever creature formed the gall, into a shape that resembles an orchid flower. Functional, or not? You can see the red going up the center vein, but the cells of this leaf are also generally deformed. Some galls are caused by insects, some by mites, some by fungus or bacteria.

 

Photo of wildflower with tiny white blooms

Here is a cute, tiny wildflower. Even the little serrated leaves are cute.

 

Photo of foxglove seedlings

This is a swath of seedling foxgloves, all from the parent plant that died off after blooming last year. That’s nothing sad (mildly sad, maybe, but nature has her ways) because foxgloves are, most varieties, biennials. Some of the ones I’ve started this year have grown so big and robust, I hope they will bloom. Meanwhile, I’ve got plenty here to spread around to other beds.

 

Photo of cloche protecting monarda

You might have come across what looked like snipped-off leaves, on some of your garden plants. I added a monarda to my “round the tree” bed, and came out one day to find it had vanished. I dug up another piece from a stand in the front border, and that one got snipped too. I thought it must be a bird, but the leaves were left lying on the ground, so what could the guilty party have in mind? Another day, I looked through my back door, and saw a grackle snipping at a brand new store-bought monarda. So, if you’ve ever had a similar experience, I can testify I’ve seen the bird in the act. Maybe the strong scent, the oils in the leaves, helps them get rid of lice when they’re nesting. (Now nesting is over, they’ve left my plants alone.) Maybe the scent helps disguise the nest from predators.

 

Photo of lily eaten by deerPhoto of impatiens eaten by deer

Speaking of depredations. We had two solid days of heavy rain here in southeastern Ohio. Normally I use Liquid Fence to keep deer off my tasty garden plants, the lilies, daylilies, impatiens, elephant ears…besides which I plant as many deer resistant flowers as I can find. I have most of the usual ones; sometimes the deer will snip the tops off coneflowers or shasta daisies. But a convergence of circumstance put my garden at risk. The rain meant I couldn’t spray, and then…which is common at this time of year…a deer showed up during the early daytime. They are normally nocturnal in their foraging, so I’d expected to have enough time when things dried up, to stink up my plants for them. (Liquid Fence is a spray you mix that smells like a combination of garlic, pepper, and manure.) As you see, some of this year’s lily flowers got snatched away, and these impatiens I just planted are down to the nubs. The deer also chopped some centaurea, which won’t care, and my goatsbeard, which one or another deer tends to do every year.

 

Photo of cuttings in nursery box

But here are some new impatiens getting a start, as well as cuttings from some petunias I just bought. You can keep a nursery box like this all summer and stick cuttings in as your plants get leggy, or when you just want more.

 

 

 

The Gardener Looks Forward

Photo of yellow-bellied sapsucker sapwells on tree

 

This is the effect of a yellow-bellied sapsucker on my callery pear tree. These sap-wells won’t start to flow until the springtime. The male I’ve seen, who owns this tree and comes out to patrol it, may be living a little out of his traditional range (there must be a female around, too). He’s been making rows of holes on this tree for years, but seems to have moved to a new stage. Sapsuckers can actually kill trees—for myself, I’d rather have happy birds. They aren’t likely to attack species of tree that don’t produce volumes of sap, those being mostly maples, birches, and fruit trees.

 

Photo of frog statue in snowy garden

 

The frog is always getting knocked off his perch. I have visiting deer who come every night looking for corn around the feeder. A couple of males have racks, and I’m guessing they bump the frog trying to maneuver their heads into the space around the tubs and pots.

 

Photo of Tufted Titmice on snowy branches

 

These guys were easy to capture in the lilac. Tufted titmice are some of the tamest birds, and don’t mind letting a person with camera get close. They, the chickadees, the downy woodpeckers, and the Carolina wrens, all prefer to go on eating, whether I’m there or not, than fly off to hide in the brush pile.

 

Photo of seed packets

 

Here are all the seeds I’ll be starting around the last week of March, and in early April. It takes a few weeks for sprouting to begin with, and nothing other than hardened-off perennials can go out until the end of May, when frost is really finished. Growing your own gives you some gardening fun until the outdoors is ready, and also saves a lot of money these days, when a single perennial can cost fifteen to twenty dollars.