What’s in the Garden

The last of the unseasonable winter-in-May has passed by, so this week was the real start of getting things planted out. All my seed-grown perennials, that I planted in April, survived the frost just fine, as most perennials will. But the annuals were getting large in their pots, and using up all their potting soil nutrients.

 

Photo of maple with woodpecker holes

Here is one of my front lawn sugar maples. From the time this was taken, the tree has already leafed out in full. As you can see, the dead center trunks make the best of habitats for hole-nesting birds, also flying squirrels (I’ve never seen one, but I assume they’re there, since the owls catch some sort of prey around the feeder), and ordinary squirrels in wintertime. Important to note, the tree is still quite alive and leafs robustly, so although a lot of homeowners would decide to cut down a half-dead tree, it’s worth keeping for the wildlife it supports.

 

Photo closeup of verbascum bloom

A close-up view of a verbascum flower. I grew a bunch from seed last year, but had to wait for this year to see them bloom. Note the pentagon-shaped bud.

 

Photo of plants in garage

When it was freezing at night, and forties by day, I had to make do, finding someplace to get light to my mature seedlings. And a couple of venerable houseplants. In the background, my garage collection of dead appliances.

 

Photo of coneflower heads

This is all that remains of the coneflower seedheads. This structural part that supports the sepals, flowers, and seeds, reminds me of a cycad. There seems to be no purpose to it, other than as a basic derivative of the plant’s evolutionary history. Flowers of the Asteraceae family are over forty million years old, so far as the fossil record currently shows.

 

Photo of Cooper's Hawk nest from distance

In my callery pear, this new nest has appeared. You can see by the recently clipped branches, still green, that it’s either in progress, or just completed. It’s the type of nest, and the tree-crotch location is typical, of a Cooper’s Hawk. But it’s only about five feet off the ground.

 

Photo of Cooper's Hawk Nest

Here’s a close-up.

 

Photo of baptisia australis

This baptisia has been growing in my garden for several years, and this is the first year it has ever bloomed.

 

Photo of red peony

My red single-flowered peony.

 

Photo of wildflower

Finally, this is a wildflower we have locally. It looks like a member of the rose family, but I couldn’t find it in my guidebook. I’m going to give it a chance and see if it develops into a decent groundcover for shade, where it likes to grow. The flowers are as shown, tiny, but the leaves are like a heuchera.

 

 

Waiting for the Cold Spell to End

Photo of garden cart and plants

These are the seeds I started March 15. The biggest growers are the annuals, the centaurea, nicotiana, and tithonia. They toughen up well enough with temperatures in the fifties, but need an eye kept on them in case the wind blows too cold. Of perennials, I have rudbeckia, columbine, shasta daisy, lupine, achillea, foxglove, hollyhock, catmint, coreopsis, hibiscus. The slower-growing annuals are coleus, impatiens (the big ones flowering above were started from cuttings), larkspur, calendula, ageratum…and I just started the end of spring annuals, that could sprout sown directly; but, in the case of sunflower, are vulnerable to birds eating them, or need a good start to root well and bloom sooner: morning glory, marigold, and nasturtium.

 

Photo of Milkweed border

Along the side of the garage I have a stand of swamp milkweed (white-flowered) that grows every summer into a seasonal hedge. These plants get a lot of love from bees and wasps; so far, I haven’t seen monarchs. But, as every year, I want to tout the tithonia flower, which is very attractive to monarchs. That may be because the kind that migrate to Mexico are looking for a familiar haven along the way (tithonia is also called Mexican sunflower). When they go to seed in the late summer, goldfinches will feed on them too.

 

Photo of old yew bush

On my old property, I planted an acorn and grew a Chestnut oak about twenty or thirty feet tall at the time I left. I’d like to think it’s still there…maybe it isn’t. But owners can do what they need to with their own place. My garage was first hedged with yew, bushes grown a couple feet taller than me. If they were left alone, there’d be no moving up the side between my property and the neighbors’. I don’t myself like trimmed foundation bushes, so I cut them down, rather than try keeping them up—I couldn’t get the stumps, because my chainsaw is only a little battery-operated one. One yew, and I’m happy it did, if I can keep it small, came back and has a sort of Bristlecone pine vibe.

 

Photo of my grandfather and his brother

My grandfather (left), his brother (right). I don’t know who the skinny man in the center is.

 

Photo of my grandfather, his brother and mother

Same group, but with my great-grandmother in the middle.

 

Photo of my great grandmother

My great-grandmother Barker, 1960s, probably Mt. Vernon, Illinois