Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mulch Mountain

aka, the mulch that ate my weekend. I decided to get some of the free (well, delivery charge--still a deal!) leaf mulch Arlington county offers to use as I extend my flower beds. Let's just say that my math skills are not so hot. We were shoveling for three days, and begging neighbors (passerby even) to take some. This photograph is completely deceiving, as I now realize I should have stepped back. The pile was almost as tell as me! I did not even count the number of wheelbarrows, but I think when you see the finished beds you will appreciate how much mulch I was dealing with.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Smelling like a daisy...?

My "driveway" garden had developed a stench so repugnant to me that I had begun to have paranoid delusions that someone was tossing their dog waste into the bed. At first, I thought the neighborhood cat was at it again, but when I finally had had enough and was preparing to dig through the bed, it hit me that 1) I was being ridiculous and 2) there was something else at work. I immediately googled "daisies stink" and found the culprit.
The shasta daisy (Chrysanthemum maximum) was only 2% of the "real shady" seed mix I planted here, but it is doing really well. After deadheading, the smell immediately went away!
I actually like the bed looking more neat, so perhaps I will donate the offending plant to a local pollinator garden and replace it with something I can tolerate walking my bike past! Or, maybe I can deal with deadheading the daisy a lot more than I was. I hated to cut them considering the amount of pollinators they were attracting. I am just relieved that smell is gone for now...replaced by the smell of mulch mountain (coming soon).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dear Mr. Bird and other pest news

If you are going to taste my first ripe tomato of the season, could you at least eat the whole thing?
Maybe this is the work of a squirrel or my main nemesis, the vole(s). The birds get plenty of raspberries though--this reflective tape affects them nil.
They are getting pretty bold with the blueberries, which are under nets. And I made the mistake of planting the blackberry ON the fence, so they can just come through the other side to snack if I drape a net on it. I think there will be enough to share.
Speaking of voles, I have not noticed a lot of damage--I think because they have so much to eat in the compost pile. And they would be here whether I had a compost pile or not, being safely ensconced beneath the garden shed. However, I have noticed digging around my newest plantings (the native plants for some reason, not the dozens of other perennials). I am trying cayenne to see how that works:
A gruesome fate befell a vole who was sniffing around the blueberries yesterday. I found its head! Yes, its head. I'll spare you a photo of that, but yay for hawks and sometimes cats, like these two (one is hiding in the catnip):
Yesterday I saw a hawk flying overhead with something much larger than a vole--probably a dove. I do worry about Vincent though. He's not hurting anything, just munching on clover as usual.
Finally, the mosquitoes are as bad as ever. Last evening I was reminded to look before swatting though, when I spotted this cute green guy, perhaps a long-legged fly?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I identified the Spanish orchid!

I shared a photo of this gorgeous wildflower I spotted on a hike in Basque country, and having a hunch it was an orchid, I googled and voila, found it right away at Iberian Wildlife Tours page on Spanish orchids. It is definitely an Ophrys, and I am pretty sure it is the woodcock Ophrys.
I also found the other plant I had identified as an orchid, which has the amusing name of Naked Man Orchid:
The best part about all of this is that these plants were spotted along a popular trail and not disturbed.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dog Vomit and Worse, White Flies

Have you ever seen anything like this?
Don't be alarmed, it is just a harmless slime mold (type of fungus), appropriately named "Dog Vomit." It is common in/on wood mulch, like this cedar bark.

In more worrisome news, I have a major infestation of white flies. Because I think pesticides do more harm that good, and the white flies are not going to kill everything, just weaken a lot of plants, I'm going to try the integrated pest management (IPM) route. I have been trying to increse the beneficial insects in my yard, like the tiny predatory wasps that should be taking these guys out. I am either not doing a good enough job attracting them, or the job is just too big.
How do you know it's white flies? Tap a plant, and zillions of tiny white winged insects fly out. The larvae suck plant juices, weakening the plant and spreading diseases.
When the larvae have been parasitized, they are dark in color, so I'll be in my garden with a magnifier this evening, fingers crossed!

My plan is to purchase some lady bugs and maybe lace wings, plant even more tiny flowered plants to attract the good guys, and spray everything with a hose. I've also comee across mentions of using Dr. Bronner's soap, something I always have on hand. Wish me luck!

Bloom Day for Garden Bloggers

Despite my camera and photo storage problems, I do actually have some pretty flowers in the garden this week! Thanks to May Dreams Gardens for sponsoring GBBD!

This perennial border is just too narrow and crowded, as I have repeatedly whined about. Some cool cloudy weather is giving me a chance to start transplanting and widening. I do like some of the combinations I have going, like this coneflower (White Swan) with Allium. I have moved the small non-blooming Hydrangea (at left) to a spot with more shade, but I don't dare move the Phlox before it blooms, nor the Monarda that is also squeezed in there and blooming for the first time. The Iris can handle a move, and I may have to move the Peony as well.
My lavender has gotten huge, but not necessarily in a good way. I think but need to confirm that the purple flower is Adenophora--I previously thought it was Campanula. It spreads, but not in an aggressive way, and I like it. Believe it or not, there are also Veronica, Dahlia, Liatris, coneflower, and Yarrow in there. Don't worry, plans for a much expanded border are in the works, and at least I have the plant material to work with!
Most of my bulbs did well this year, and I am especially loving the Alliums. Here is one just before opening:
Native honeysuckle will have to be in every garden I ever plant:
Yarrow has the added benefit of attracting beneficial insects. It needs to be supported though, as these are really "floppy."
Another favorite of mine is coneflower. This is "sundown," which changes from pink to coral-orange. This one is between blueberries--that is why it is covered with net.
Here is another sundown (or a purple coneflower) with a different Allium seedpod.
In the native shade garden, the Clethra will bloom soon. I missed the Itea in full bloom (while on vacation) so I can't compare their scents.
Also blooming is the oak leaved Hydrangea, which is unfortunately getting too much sun. I don't want to move a large established shrub in summer, and I am hoping the small tree I plan to add over here (at left) will give it the afternoon shade it needs.
And here is a long view of the native shade garden:
In the front yard, on the shady side of the house, I have another Hydrangea, which is great for cut flowers:
Here is the hydrangea in context, and you can see the Dahlias and Sedums starting to bloom. Something is devouring the Dahlias (a beetle of some sort)--but maybe I should leave them as a trap crop to keep the pest off my vegetables?
Just the sunny part of the front corner, with blooming thyme and northern sea oats closeups below. I am hoping the Dianthus will bloom again.
I need another one of these sea oats on the other side of the house, behind this Spirea. I really like Spirea, but I wish I had known it was invasive before I bought it so I would not have to feel guilty.
The Spirea does pair nicely with this huge Hibiscus and its purple hued leaves:

I'll be adding more Sedums to this side of the house, along with Dianthus. A native honeysuckle is growing on the trellis behind the Nandina.Along the driveway, I have tons of shasta daisies:
Thanks for checking out DinkyDo's flowers!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Last Post-Vacation Update

I guess 10 days away from the garden in late May only ended up costing me a few quarts of strawberries (not that that isn't sad!). I didn't miss much else. For my last update, the other bed of beans and nightshades is coming along. This one mimics its twin bed, but it has cherry tomatoes, two eggplants instead of two basil, plus a purple basil and a sweet pepper.
I can't remember if I planted lima beans in this bed, and black eyed peas in the other bed, or vice versa. Either way, I'll know soon.
I'm thrilled with how healthy the seed-grown eggplant looks, especially since it was protected from flea beetles in its early days by row cover.
I've even had a few orange cherry tomatoes already, but the bummer is I can't just eat them off the vine because the robins hang out on top of my tomato tower, leaving some undesirable fertilizer on the plants. I'm no germaphobe, but that calls for a good washing.

Big Bed Garden Update

Still hanging on in "Big Bed" are a smattering of roots (beets, carrots), greens (lettuce, spinach, and arugula), cilantro and parsley in bloom, and fava beans. All of these will be finished by the time the okra and squash I've planted need the room.
I've planted okra around the periphery. If this week's (and last week's) temps are any indication, it may be my best performer again this summer.
In the center of the bed are a winter squash variety that is hopefully somewhat compact, called "Georgia Candy Roaster." I figure I can let the squash roam the lawn if it needs to.
The favas did a little better this year, so if I continue planting them earlier maybe I'll get a decent harvest one day.

Garden Updates Cont.: Seed Bed

Before vacation, I planted my "heat lovers"--squash, cucumbers, beans. okra. All germinated and are thriving except the summer squash, a variety called lemon. I suspect it is the state of the bed I planted them in:
If it wasn't the shade, then I wonder if Brassica species like this broccoli exude something that prevents germination.
The parsley and cilantro flowers are now propped up and the seed will be harvested. I removed all but one of the broccoli plants (I want to save some seed) and tried again. If it doesn't work out, I'll use this as my "seed bed" for fall crops. The scallions and leeks are doing well.
By the way, did you know how pretty radish flowers are?

First Cat of the Season

This black swallowtail caterpillar made a brief appearance on my fennel. They are supposed to be distasteful to birds, so not sure where it disappeared to. I have butterfly bush (Buddleia) and the monarch-feeding butterfly weed (Asclepias) as well as lots more flowers with butterfly appeal, so I look forward to seeing many more butterflies this summer.
I'm hoping my effort to attract pollinators and beneficial insects will pay off in the garden, but there is no harm if not because I've discovered many of my favorite plants also attract beneficials.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The bunny problem

I've already named him!
We've had rabbits come through the yard before, especially when there were hundreds of rotten apples on the ground, but Vincent seems to have made a home in the day lilies. He munches on clover and samples from all over the yard, including the garden--but he actually did me a favor by thinning my beans.
I alternate between wishing he would leave and hoping the resident Cooper's hawk won't get him (at least not in my sight please). Oh, and did I mention I have no idea if he is really a boy? The last thing I need is a nest of bunnies eating everything in sight. You are so cute, but please find a new home.

Monday, June 6, 2011


With some plants, it takes a while to get gratification, like with this foxglove, a biennial. Probably worth the wait, but the constant critic in me would like a more vibrant shade of pink.
Patience is such a huge part of gardening, and not a trait I have in abundance. So, I wait for the peas to fill out, for the tomatoes to ripen, for the eggplant and peppers to form, for the beans and okra and squash and cucumbers and scallions to grow. I wait for the berries to ripen. I wait for the cilantro and parsley to finish blooming--while I do enjoy the many pollinators and beneficial insects they are drawing to the garden--so I can harvest their seed and rip them out to make room for heat lovers. I wait to regain my strength so I can continue digging and expand my beds. I wait for my wallet to replenish so I can buy more plants. I wait.

After Vacation Update, cont.

In the continuing "what a difference 10 days makes" series, we move on to the exciting developments in the "greens" bed. Before vacation, the spinach and arugula had bolted along, but the mesclun was going strong and the peas had just begun to flower. Fast forward ten days, and we have peas (a DinkyDo first)! I probably could have planted them even earlier with the nice spring we had, but I got a decent enough harvest that I would definitely grow them again. More 100 degree weather is coming this week, so the peas are probably not long for this world, but cucumber seedlings are waiting to take their place on the trellis (and hopefully shade some new lettuce).

Propagating Native Plants

Sweet shrub (Calycanthus floridus) has long been on my list of desired native shrubs--the fragrance, the maroon flowers, I could go on... I tried to buy one once and was foiled by a mislabeled plant, a viburnum with similar leaves that now nicely hides my compost pile.
While perusing shrubs at the nursery last fall, I chatted about sweet shrub with an employee, who generously snapped a seed pod off a bush and handed it to me, "try it." I finally did, and it is doing pretty well--though only one seed from the 12+ in the pod germinated. Not great odds. Now I have to determine when to pinch it to encourage it to grow bushy and lush, and when to transplant it.