Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Catching Up--Again


A good deal of my time recently has been spent in the garden--or, recovering from being in the garden.
I continue to grub away at the weeds in the flower strips--in addition to the usual stuff there is something very tenacious and invasive--I have no identification for it, but the root system is tough, sending out runners in every direction.
The second round of bloom on the roses began just as the Japanese beetles moved in. I've been snipping the roses as soon as the buds show color--at present I have four small vases lined up on the kitchen windowsill--the only way to enjoy the blossoms.  At that, the beetles spoil some of the roses before I can salvage them.


These lilies will be opening before the week is out.


Cleome.  I learned that the local name for this plant is 'grandpa's whiskers.'
Many seedlings appeared in the corner of the garden--I uprooted all but three or four, having learned that as summer advances these plants can sprawl over  everything in sight, dropping seeds enough for a plantation of cleome.


Clary sage also sheds its seeds generously.  The coarse leaves have a sharp citrus scent when brushed, the lavender and white blooms are exotically sweet.


The butterfly bush put out leaves very early and then was nipped by frost requiring pruning to tidy it up. The sweet-scented blossoms have been encouraged by a spell of hot weather.


The balloon flowers [platycodon] are past their prime, having been pummeled by rain over the weekend.


Hibiscus, locally called Rose of Sharon, is in bloom.


This double sport of the common orange 'ditch lily' was noticed by Gina and Matt when they were walking along the Old Gradyville RD near our first Kentucky home. These were dug up from the roadside, moved to our property in Cane Valley and finally here.  This spring I divided them and replanted in the small garden of native wildlings I am working to establish on the slope below the side porch steps.


Cucumbers have gone into high gear. The earliest ones I planted were slow to emerge, so Jim replanted, then bought a four-pak of starts to supplement the ones I had started from seed.  In the end it appears we over-did the cucumber venture.  We have been giving them away, eating as many as possible.  If we are utterly swamped with them I will resort to feeding them to the goats!


The local blueberry farm has a good crop this year.  We are on our second tray of fresh ones and have stocked the freezer with berries picked and quickly frozen right at the berry farm.


The days move along in a predictable way--the tasks that must be done in the way of housekeeping, gardening, errands--some projects started but not yet finished--those niggle at me, needing a mere few hours of focused time to be done.
Thoughts and words tumble through my mind, begging to be formed into coherent prose of sorts.
Instead of writing I am inclined to fall into a rocking chair and nod over a book!
Summer is here--and with it comes the need to mindfully pace ourselves to deal with days memorable for heat and humidity.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Not The Day I Planned


On Saturday morning, watering my porch plants I noted damage to the nasturtium leaves.  Its wasn't unexpected; white 'cabbage butterflies' are in evidence early in the spring, flitting over the garden, depositing their invisible eggs which morph into nasty voracious green caterpillars.  In addition to cole crops they have an appetite for nasturtiums, sometimes decimating an entire plant overnight.
I squashed all that I could find.  Two or three more were in evidence on Sunday, two on Monday--and they moved their operation to the mini shrub roses on the concrete walk.
I went in search of a container of diatomacious earth--which is stored in a red plastic coffee can.  I've seen it numerous times when poking through oddments still unsorted in the basement storage room.
Half an hour of rummaging turned up some interesting items, but not the container I needed.


Bonny uses diatomacious earth in the scrumptious smelling feed which she mixes for her goats, so I trudged down the lane, a container in hand to beg a cupful.


It rained in gentle drenching fits through much of Sunday, Sunday night and well into Monday.
The stems of the mini roses being long and rather lax, were bedraggled and bent by the rain.
Tuesday morning was quietly overcast and, expecting more rain, I hurried to accomplish my outdoor chores. 
It would, I thought, be a good day to finish hemming the curtains destined for the west windows of the upstairs hallway; I might bake, hoover the accumulated cat hair on the stairs,  do a bit of writing.
First, I would go down the lane with an offering of  wilted lettuce and beet leaves for the billy goats.


Taking the route from the lower back porch past the garden I was appalled to find that overnight [!] the row of kale had been riddled by an army of cabbage worms. I had been so intent of the fate of my nasturtiums and roses that I hadn't considered that the kale, our only cole crop of the moment, would be a likely target.
With a wail of distress I began pinching green worms, only to realize that the scope of the damage was too great for salvage.
Jim poked his head round the shop door to see why I was fuming.
I suggested he bring out the weed eater and buzz it over the kale row.
His solution was slightly more drastic; he fired up the riding mower, raised the blades to highest point and roared along the row spraying juicy macerated leaves--and worms--into the nearby stand of green beans.  He parked the mower and we stood in the sudden silence inhaling the odor of gasoline and crushed kale.
Dusting his hands, as men do over a job well done, he announced, "That ought to do them!" and retreated to the  shop.


I retrieved my goat offering and trudged rather despondently down the lane.


Glancing toward the upper pasture I noted several clumps of brilliant orange blossoms.
Butterfly weed!  [Asclepias tuberosa]  This grows along ditch banks and roadsides, sometimes producing a mutant strain with brilliant chrome yellow blooms.
Many years ago I bought a plant from a mail order nursery, hovered over it and watched while it failed to thrive, ultimately turning up its leaves and wasting away.
In my first Kentucky garden I managed to establish a small clump that I dug from the roadside.


Pulling on my wellies, armed with a shovel and a 5 gallon bucket, I stumped down the lane, climbed a gate and wallowed up the pasture hill through hip-high wet grass and weeds.
I eventually managed to disinter two clumps of asclepias along with  enough heavy moist earth to help the plants re-establish.  For good measure I dug several stalks of black-eyed Susan [rudbeckia hirta] and an unidentified blue flower on a slender wiry stem. 
Long before I reached the gate, bucket, shovel and floppy plants had become very heavy.
Jim kindly brought the plants--as well as three more bricks scrounged for my walk--on the tractor, so I was spared the effort of dragging my prizes up the lane.
I had no clear idea of where these plants were going to be installed, until I thought of the area below the concrete landing. 
This space had been planted to creeping phlox by the previous owners. It bloomed prettily the first spring that we were here, last year it was feeble, this spring saw the phlox overtaken by weeds.
I haven't grown this, but have a suspicion that it is rather short-lived.
Very early this spring I divided and moved some daylilies into this area. I also set in the spiderwort gifted by my neighbor. 
I rather recklessly decided to dig over the whole area, stick in some aggressive and hardy items in hope of establishing a sort of wild garden that would crowd out the weeds and provide color in that problem spot.
I dug and grubbed for hours.  The gritty soil was damp enough to release the weeds which I flung down into the driveway. 
The wildlings were planted and I looked around for other candidates to fill the space. 
Several clumps of achillea raised from seed last year were meant to be 'Summer Pastels' but proved on blooming to be the native white yarrow of field and roadside. This I moved to the wild garden along with two clary sage which had self sown in awkward spots. 
I took a break to swallow a helping of leftover pasta casserole and a can of iced tea, then back to the garden.  
I was hurting by then, but I like to do a job 'all of a piece' when possible.
It was nearly dusk when I conceded that I couldn't root out the last of the weeds.
I was too tired to go in search of the wheelbarrow, so began scraping up the debris of weeds and clotted soil with my garden fork, lugging them down below the garden.


I trimmed some of the wilting stems from my transplants, lopped invasive branches from the rugosas, checked the nasturtiums and potted roses again for any lingering cabbage worms.
I was ready to call it a day!
The bliss  of shedding mud-encrusted clothing, of stepping into a hot shower!
Tylenol and a mug of hot tea to address aching muscles.
Rocking chair, cats and a book before creaking upstairs to clean cool sheets and the  warm comfort of a quilt.

This morning I surveyed the result of my efforts.  I found a jar of saved cosmos seeds and scattered them over my rough garden. I considered finishing the weeding.
Jim needed to make delivery of a tractor he had sold, and it didn't take much persuasion for me to put on decent jeans and ride with him to Tennessee.
Before leaving I walked along my brick path, camera in hand to record the blooms of the day.
Tomorrow I will deal with more weeds.
The hallway curtains must wait for a rainy day or for an evening when I am ambitious!

Achillea, Summer Pastels, coming into bloom.

Miniature day lily, Tiny Ghost.

Coneflower, not quite in bloom.

Clary sage in bud.

Platycodon, transplanted from the Cane Valley property.

East side of the garden.

Willis--always faithful gardening companion.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Communication Resumes

Bobby Mac is intent on butterflies flitting just out of reach.

Two weeks ago today I took my desktop PC to the electronics shop in town for servicing and updating. Prior to that I loaded a few photos, saving them as drafts, thinking I could use my laptop to add text and keep my blog alive.
By the third day the always recalcitrant laptop was malfunctioning, the keyboard flinging out rows of "8" or "5", then freezing completely.
Each time we had an errand in town we stopped to inquire when my PC might be ready. Vague replies of, 'Tomorrow, about closing time," proved to be unfounded.
I used Jim's laptop a few times to check email, etc, but decided that being off-line could serve as good discipline.
By the time my refurbished PC was collected late on Friday life had been moving on for nearly two weeks; garden flowers had blossomed, had their day, others were taking their place, my days had been filled.


I worked in the garden, assisted by a retinue of cats. 
Willis has a way of concealing himself beneath a sprawling rose bush or lurking in a vegetable row, suddenly popping out to take a more active role. He approves of the brick path.


Sally, who has always been an outdoor cat, has developed a testy personality.
Bullied by Willis in his youth, Sally has become the resident troll, hissing and slapping at any cat who walks past. She tends to hover when I am watering or fussing over the seedlings on the side porch; she pushes at my hands, huffs if I stroke her, stomps about getting in the way.


Willis has always displayed a mixture of charm and arrogance.
We have hoped that his adventure several months ago [riding off in the back of someone's truck] had cured him of such wander-lust tendencies. His slight limp remains a reminder of that upset.
When a friend stopped by Saturday evening with plants for me, Willis clambered onto the tailgate of her truck and had to be fished out of the back: lesson not learned!



Edward is less often outside with me.  He is amiable and lazy, more inclined to land heavily on my lap when I am at my desk.


Willis is partial to the sun-warmed timber of the lower retaining wall.  From this vantage point he can watch the lane in case any of the neighbor cats should venture beyond the boundaries he has stipulated; he can keep an eye of Jim's doings in the workshop adjacent to the garden; 


In its second year the autumn-flowering clematis has climbed the trellis and galloped along the fence.
I trust it will bloom in late summer.


A frilled poppy.



The poppies self-sow randomly, often getting in the way of other plants.
I leave them in place until the seed pods ripen.


Kale, Swiss chard and beets have grown abundantly in the rich compost which Jim hauled in last fall.
We eat greens, give them away, sometimes even feed them to the neighbor's goats! 



Fortunately we are fond of beets!  I wrap them in foil and roast them in the oven.


Rain began Sunday evening and has continued at intervals through the day.
It has been a gentle soaking rain--the best kind--but enough that weeding and planting will have to be done from the brick walk-way or what can be reached from the retaining wall.

A meandering post, to serve as a reminder of late May tipping into June.



Monday, May 22, 2017

Poppies



During my first year in Kentucky I ordered a variety of heirloom poppies from Select Seeds.
I saved the dried pods and sprinkled seeds throughout the gardens.
I brought saved seed when we moved to our current location.
Thus far the dominant poppy is 'Lauren's Grape'.
I'm hoping some of my favorite deep reds will yet bloom.
It may be time to order a few different kinds for next season.



Newly opened poppy--morning fresh.

A 'sugar bowl' effect.


Poppies are at their loveliest for a matter of hours.

My favorite of that morning's photos.


Too soon wind and rain damage the fragile petals.


Friday, May 19, 2017

A Day of Green Darkness


I woke to the muffled booming of thunder and the pattering of rain. The scent of freshly rinsed grass, drenched  leaves and damp earth seeped past fluttering curtains, into the green darkness of the bedroom. 
I closed my eyes, tried to pretend that I wasn't awake. 
The thought of kitchen and sun room windows left open overnight niggled at me as the drumming of rain on the roof increased.
When I swung my feet over the side of the bed and sat up I was surprised to find Teasel cat crouched on the rug. 
She kept pace with me down the stairs and into the gloom of the kitchen.
The windows were shut.
It was unsettling to realize that I must have slept through Jim prowling the rooms earlier when the rain began.
I pulled on clothes, shoved my feet into rubber crocs and padded out to the porch.
Charlie-cat burst through the opened door with his usual cheery morning natter.
One sniff of the rainy day outside convinced the boy cats and Teasel that they didn't want to risk wet feet and they backed away from the doorway in distaste.


I tended plants and seedlings on the side porch, then during a lull in the rain headed down to the garden.  A toad scrabbled into the relative shelter beneath the rugosa that leaned over the steps; Willis popped up beside me, ready to serve as escort.
 Raindrops splattered through the canopy of the oaks beyond the garden fence.


Trees cover the ridges which enfold our house on three sides; during a summer rain they seem to lean in, casting a dark green gloom.



The blooms on my newly planted clematis are ravaged by the rain, the petals stained and shabby.



The nameless rose in the fence corner is having a second flush of bloom.
It too, suffered an overnight beating from the rain.


 The unstoppable rugosa has been growing out of bounds for several weeks.
Now, weighted with rain, over-reaching branches presented a hazard, scratching at me as I walked up the steps.  I found gloves and pruners, lopped off the offenders.


Loud rumblings of thunder heralded a fresh assault of rain.
Willis and I hurried for the shelter of the porch.

Bobby Mac, who is terrorized by thunder, has refused to go outside, instead hovering all day underfoot, retreating under the bed during bursts of rain.

Walking down the lane in the calm of early evening, I looked back to note swirls of grey mist drifting in from the woods, shrouding the porch, floating over the garden. 
The air feels thick and humid, harbinger of the long weeks of summer.