Saturday, September 19, 2009

White Wood Asters

You can see White Wood Asters growing all over the place, particularly where lawns meets woods. Individually, these are not a very stunning flower, but en mass they can be very attractive. The picture below shows them growing along the edge of my driveway. I didn't plant them. They were a byproduct of my efforts to reduce brushy growth that might scratch our cars, and the fact that not much else is well adapted to dry, shady conditions.

At Eklund Garden you are greeted with a line of asters as soon as you open the gate. I assume the lack of asters on the other side of the gate is due to deer browsing (we often see deer on the outside of the seems to be a route they follow).

And there are plenty blooming where the house was once located. These all came on their own. I did actually transplant some up above and now am kicking myself for wasting my time. This is one you just don't need to transplant. It will come all on its own! Note that White Wood Aster is extremely tolerant and can withstand very dry, shady areas. The leaves can be a little rough and weedy looking, so it makes a good border for natural areas.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"Garden in the Woods" Visit

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting the largest native species garden that I know of in the region: "The Garden in the Woods" by the New England Wildflower Society in Framingham, Mass. (just west of Boston). It was much larger than I expected. The board below is a neat idea: Removable picture cards of each plant are posted when the plant is in bloom.

Here's an invasive plant jail, with various species of invasives behind bars. Brilliant.

This is a floating island. It looks like rock but the thing was moving through the water a bit from the breeze. You can see some pitcher plants on it. This might be an interesting thing to do in the vernal pool down below, because only the center gets any real sun.
They had some little white 'tents' protecting caterpillars. This one I believe is a cecropia moth, which I just read has been in decline due to parasitism from an organism that was brought in to parasitize gypsy moths. For more pictures see here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

American Pennyroyal

Bonus today! The aromatic groundcover I figured was some non-native herb/weed planted by the Eklunds is actually native, and it's functioning nicely as a "lawn." All year I have wondered what was giving off such an aroma while we worked on the rock garden.

I finally took the time to track down which plant was the cause of the smell and discovered there was lots of it, especially up towards the top. In the picture below you can see it growing in front of the rock bench, looking pretty much like mowed grass from a distance. It's been cropped with a string trimmer a few times. It's in the mint family and is not toxic as the name might otherwise suggest (it's also called American False Pennyroyal).

Garden Views

I needed some pictures to submit Eklund Garden in the "Adopt-A-Garden" program at City Hall, so I stopped by to take a few on a nice cloudy day (no shadow patterns to mess up the photos). Here are the photos I submitted:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Garden Work

Emma and Biscuit joined me for an afternoon of gardening today. While Emma weeded, I applied 200 lbs of dolomite to the various beds, deadheaded, and staked some of the flowers. Here's Emma weeding below:

And Biscuit standing guard or something...

When I threw down lime on the area where the house used to be, a bunch of these tiny frogs started jumping around. I think they are pickerel frogs that just morphed from tadpoles in the vernal pool below the garden. I also saw some more red eft newts.

Emma took a break on the rock garden.

We should get a lot more blooms next year.

Purple Coneflower, Bee Balm, Butterfly Weed, Giant Hyssop

Some new bloomers today, all favored by butterflies and bees:

Purple Coneflower.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

Butterfly Weed.

This plant came in as a hitchhiker with some Milkweed from Earth Tones. I believe it is the Purple Giant Hyssop (Agastache scrophulariaefolia - and they wonder why people don't like to use the botanical names), a native plant in Connecticut. It's in the mint family and is aromatic. I have no way of separating from the milkweed, however.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Soil Analyses

The soil results are back from the CT Agricultural Experiment Station. For price of postage ($8) they analyzed 5 composite samples from the various beds around the garden (note: anyone can do this). I was particularly curious about the fill that had been brought in where the house once stood. In the picture below, that's the soil to the right, compared to the nice dark soil on the left from the Butterfly bed.

Of particular interest was pH. I have been working under the assumption that the pH is particularly low here since we have pines and oak all around and because of all the heath species growing. On the other hand, we were adding Sweet Peat to the soil, which has some limestone added. So I wasn't sure how the pH would test out.

The results ranged from 4.6 to 5.6, all acidic as expected, even with the Sweet Peat added. Many native species like acidic soil. But how acidic? I once had a sick rhododendron and sent in some soil for testing. The reply was that the soil was too acidic even for rhododendrons, a species well known for requiring acidic soil. The pH was 3.8 or something ridiculous like that, and I had to add limestone.

I found the chart at right of pH indicator plants in "A Sierra Club Naturalist's Guide to Southern New England" (click to enlarge). Listed plants growing at Eklund prior to planting included Mountain Laurel, Blueberries, Pink Lady Slipper, Canada Mayflower, Partridgeberry, and Interrupted Fern. All but the last one are listed as preferring a pH of 4 to 4.5. Some of the plants we've just recently added, such as Red Trillium, Maidenhair Fern, Asters, Wild Geranium, Baneberry, Columbine, and Sharp-Lobed Hepatica are all listed as prefering a pH of either 5 to 6 or 6 to 8. Therefore our goal will be to bring most of the garden beds up to a pH of 6. The exception will be the heath walk up the stairs and through the pine trees, which will remain very acidic.

As for the fill that was brought in, I'm somewhat suspicious of the reported results, which listed the soil as "sandy loam" even though this soil clumps tightly if you squeeze it and turns into concrete blocks when dry. All the soils were reported to be sandy loam. It is listed as having low-medium organic matter, so a priority would be to add some type of compost.

I'll be calling the Ag Station for clarification about recommended rates of limestone application since they don't specify what pH they are aiming for. The results are shown below (click to enlarge).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Self-Closing Gates

Richard Skudlarek has been working on the gates to make them self-closing, since people keep leaving them wide open (I twice saw high school runners doing this). This spring pulls the door towards the inside while a couple of stops keep it from swinging in past the post. In combination they hold the gate shut even if it isn't latched. Hurray!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Donations, In Bloom

Pat and Rudy Gajdosik donated some natives from their gardens today including Wild Ginger, Bloodroot, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, and Columbine. We already had some of the first three, but not much. The aroma while cutting into the mass of ginger was in fact just like ginger.

Above is one of the cinquefoils, Dwarf Cinquefoil I think. It arrived at the rock garden all on its own, so we'll nuture that and let it form a nice groundcover.

Here's the second plant we have called "Black Eyed Susan." This one is Rudbeckia Fulgida and it's from my garden. I had a big patch of this at home for years but this year deer or woodchucks ate it all. All that's left is what I transplanted as a rescue at Eklund.

Here's an adorable little Spotted Pipsissewa in bloom.

Friday, July 17, 2009

New Purchases

That's the last of the Iroquois grant money - $316 worth. I took a trip up to Earth Tones in Woodbury yesterday and spent probably and hour picking everything out. It's a fun nursery to walk through because everything is native.
Here's one of my picks: Virginia Strawberry. The farm strawberries everyone eats are a cross between this strawberry, which has tiny but very tasty berries, and a European strawberry, which has larges berries with little flavor.
This is a groundcover for the rock garden called Pussytoes. Hopefully it will take off and help hold the soil on the slope.
This is wintergreen. I do sometimes see this hiking, most recently near Birchbank Trail. I used to see this a lot in the sand hills of northern Wisconsin.

I skipped the heat and planted just before nightfall tonight. We're supposed to have rain tonight and cooler temps tomorrow. Here are the plants:

Bearberry - Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Steeplebush - Spiraea tomentosa
Wild Stone Crop - Sedum ternatum
Field Pussytoes - Antennaria neglecta
Pinxter Azalea - Rhododendron nudiflorum
Wild Live Forever - Sedum telephioides
Virgina Strawberry - Fragaria virginiana
Creeping Phlox - Phlox subulata
Wintergreen - Gaultheria procumbens
Wood Iris - Iris cristata
Blanket Flower - Gaillardia arististata
Leucothoe - Leucothoe axillaris

Garden Phlox, Ox Eye

The Garden Phlox is just starting to bloom.

The Oxeye, or False Sunflower (heliopsis) is in full bloom.

You can see both in bloom here, along with the coreopsis.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Unexpected Visitor

Visitors to Eklund Garden today were greeted by this mushroom growing near the base of the first retaining wall. I believe it is a species of Amanita, possibly Amanita muscarius, or Poison Fly Mushroom. So don't eat it!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pipsissewa, Prairie Phlox & Coreopsis

I love the Spotted Pipsissewa, although it is truly impossible to spell. It's native to Connecticut and is growing wild all over the Eklund site. I often see it hiking, especially in the winter since it's one of our few evergreen plants. In the picture above it's growing attractively between some Oak tree roots near the entryway. It's know by many names, including spotted wintergreen, ratsbane, dragon's tongue, rheumatism root, and wild arsenic.

Above is Prairie Phlox, which is native to Connecticut.

The Coreopsis above originated from Allison's garden last fall. We think it's Coreopsis verticillata (Whorled Tickseed), which is native from Maryland to South Carolina along wood edges and pine savanahs. However, it quite possibly WOULD be native to Connecticut if our currently warming climate was the climate in 1492. This is a very common garden plant. We don't know if it's a cultivare or not, but the price was right :-).

And here's our throne. This bench was built (by Herman Eklund we think) into the upper rock wall overlooking the garden. Have a seat and relax!

Attack of the Slugs

That's right SLUGS! Hundreds of slimey, sticky, nasty slugs decended on the garden in the last couple weeks. Allison and I picked off as many as 200. The first round were hiding at the base of the plants and under the stepping stones. Like the one above. Then we discovered that in the evening vast numbers were crawling out of the retaining wall and devouring the plants closest to the wall (blanket flower and lupines).
Here's some of their damage. In the photo above (a lupine) you can even see some of their dried slime.
I also picked up a bag of iron phosphate slug killer and spread that along the top of the wall and a few other places. Hope that helps!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

In Bloom

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) is native to the Midwest.

We have two species of Black-Eyed Susan in the garden. This one is Rudbeckia Hirta, and it came all on its own. This is the one with fuzzy leaves. There is conflicted information about where this plant originated. Some sources say the Midwest, and others say there is more evidence that it grew as far east as Maryland, where it is the state flower. It has naturalized pretty much everywhere.

This large flower is the Prickly Pear Cactus bloom. Prickly Pear are definitely native to Connecticut and I have seen them growing wild at Milford Point.
This one is Black Cohosh, a very tall shade plant similar to astilbe. Black Cohosh is native to Connecticut and is currently marketed as an herbal treatment for symptoms of menopause.