Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Prickly Pear Cactus

The cactus bed is complete - six native Prickly Pear, all from Twombly Nursery in Monroe. I learned that the nearly-invisible thorns will go right through a leather glove. I don't know how, since they look so fragile, but they do. I pulled my glove off, and there they were sticking out of my thumb, and really hard to pull out. Lacking tweezers, I had to use my teeth. After that, to remove the cacti from the pots I just turned them upside down and shook them until they plopped on the ground.

They have two types of barbs: the 1 inch-long dangerous-looking ones, and the nearly-invisible slivers. The big ones tend to fall out, leaving the truly hazardous ones to attack you.

Prickly Pear grows naturally in Connecticut along the coast. You can see it at the Milford Point Coastal Audubon Center along the boardwalk.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hayscented Fern

Hayscented Fern is spreading rapidly across the upper terrace this spring since the brush was cut and the terrace raked. That's good, because we have nothing planned for that terrace at the moment. This particular fern is known as a native invasive species in areas with high deer population (like Shelton) because the deer tend to eat everything but the fern, allowing it to spread. It's also unusual in that it spreads by runners. More and more you can find large swaths of forest blanketed with hayscented fern.
Well, anyways, it IS native, so we'll just let it take over the terrace for now. There's some Black Swallowwort coming in as well -- that has to go!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Before & After Photos

Here's a "before" shot of the garden hillside in 2007 covered with invasive Black Swallowwort vine.

And here's the same location today, newly planted with blueberry, harebell, stiff aster, bear berry, and prickly pear cactus. Click HERE to see more "before" and "after" pictures.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Planting Day!!

Most of the plants are in the ground! All that's left are some shade plants for the far bed (on the right). Yesterday I faked myself out thinking the sun conditions were different than what I had planned for and quickly revised my planting plan. I laid out the plant and then kept changing things around based on where the sun was coming up and where I thought there would be shade during the day. After all, there is a really big oak tree over much of the Butterfly Garden.
Every hour I took video and pictures of all the beds to document what was in sun or shade. Then suddenly around lunchtime the sun slid to an opening in the trees and the entire garden was in full sun. This prompted rearranging of the plants I had already rearranged.
Biscuit didn't care about me planting - she preferred to eat a pine tree. About 2:00 the trees to the west began to shade out part of the garden and by 4:00 all of it was in dappled shade.

There it is! Anyone need any plastic plant containers?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Earth Tones Delivery

The big day has arrived! A pick-up truck bursting with perennials dropped off the above load from Earth Tones in Woodbury. We now have most of the plants purchased with the Iroquois grant (a few hundred dollars was reserved for filling in any holes).

Here's Foamflower, an attractive shade plant.

And here are some Woodland Phlox in bloom. Native to Connecticut, although I don't think I've ever seen it in the wild. Deer are known to love phlox, so perhaps that's why.

Yesterday I repaired some of the fallen rock work on either side of the steps on the left side of the hill, giving more places to plant, and scraped off the end of the sidewalk, which was covered in a creeping non-native sedum.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Final Bed Preparation

Back-breaking work today spreading the Sweet Peat over the Butterfly Garden and mixing it into the soil by shovel. Richard didn't have access to his rototiller, or at least he thought he didn't until he got home and found a voice mail message saying he could pick up his rototiller!
Notice the raised bed behind Richard in the picture above -- the rocks have fallen over. After we finished with the Butterfly Garden we repaired the rockwork - it took Richard and Ryan together to move the larger rocks into place. The picture below shows the bed ready for planting.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Twombly Purchases

Picked up my first load of perennials using the Iroquois grant today from Twombly. Pictured above are Wild Blue Lupine, which are not the same as the ones you see a lot in Maine (those are from Europe I believe).

I just happened to walk by some cactus and asked if they had the native Prickly Pear and YES they did! WhooHoo! I took one and plan to go back and get more, after I complete my raised sandbed. I've seen these growing in the wild along the shore and at the top of some of the traprock ridges in central Connecticut.

Here's some Bloodroot, a spring woodland wildflower, one of the ones you really treasure hiking because it's so early in the spring when it blooms and the woods are still bare.

Here's the list of plants from Twombly:

10 Wild Blue Lupine (Lupinus perennis)
5 Wild Pine (Silene caroliniana)
7 Bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata)
5 Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadense)
3 Sharp-Lobed Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba)
5 Eastern Blazing Star (Liatris scariosa)
5 Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
3 Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium)
1 Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa 'Lemon Form')
5 Doll's Eye or White Baneberry (Actaea Pachypoda)

Pink Lady Slipper, Hepatica

This Pink Lady Slipper, just about ready to bloom, is located at the top of the garden under mountain laurel and pines. I knew Lady Slippers were in the area (there are some down by the reservoir and I found one up the hill a bit from the garden last year), but had no idea any were at Eklund Garden until someone helping me out at Twombly Nursery told me about it. I promptly went Lady Slipper hunting and found a couple, but this is the only one that looked like it would bloom this year (I seem to remember reading they take seven years to bloom). And they are notoriously difficult to transplant and picky about where they live (must be acidic ... under pines is a good bet).

While looking for the Lady Slipper I found these interesting plants. I think the taller ornate leave is a Tall Rattlesnake Root and the shorter one with 3 leaves is Sharp-Lobed Hepatica, which is ironic because I was at the garden dropping off Sharp-Loved Hepatica I had just purchased at Twombly.

Anyways, I've picked up my order from Twombly (and added a prickly pear cactus, which is native to Connecticut, believe it or not -- I've seen them growing wild at Milford Point), and will be getting a big delivery from Earth Tones on Monday. There's lots of work to do spreading the Sweet Peat (I think we'll mix the mulch into the soil rather than spread it on top), planting the new plants, and removing the noxious Black Swallowwort.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Butterfly Garden Plan

Here's the plan for the main bed, also known as the Butterfly Garden. The goal is to fill this bed out as soon as possible, and gradually fill out the other beds over time. The plants will come from Earth Tones and Twombly nurseries. Here's the order from Earth Tones (I just have to obtain purchase orders and arrange for deliveries):

Main bed:
NE Aster
NY Aster
purple coneflower
wild bergomot
wild sweet william
butterfly weed
garden phlox
Jacob's Ladder
Blanket Flower
Lurid Sedge - Carix
False Blue Indigo
Penstemon Digitalis

Other beds:
stiff leaved aster
Doll's Eye
Foam Flower
Wood Phlox
Wood Geranium
Low Bush Blueberry
Maidenhair Fern
squirrel Corn

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"Sweet Peat"

Had five yards of Sweet Peat delivered today by "The Mulch Man" Lou Viglione. That's great stuff! Sweet Peat is aged compost from horse stables (bedding + manure) that has had lime added for pH adjustment. You can mix it into the soil if you need more organic matter, or use it as mulch over the top to keep the weeds down and retain moisture.

There is one consideration we'll have to deal with: Most native plants prefer acidic soils, and Sweet Peat has a lot of lime added. Will this make the soil to alkaline for some of our species? We'll have to take some soil samples from time to time and send them in for analysis.

I walked to the garden along the Rec Path (yellow trail) from Wesley Drive, and on the way home it started pouring. As soon as it started raining I began seeing red efts along the portion of the Rec Path we call "Lizard Lane." Four total. Well, they're not exactly lizards (they're amphibians), but I still think "Lizard Lane" is an appropriate name.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Dwarf Ginseng

More cool, wet weather today, so I transplanted some Dwarf Ginseng and Spring Beauties from the Far Mill River floodplain off of Mill Street, where they were abundant, along with a Jack-in-the Pulpit. Some of them were growing in pure sand, and all were growing in an area that is completely flooded with a raging torrent about once a year.

I planted them interspersed in a clump (photo), because that is how they are growing along the Far Mill River. I likewise planted the Trillium and Dutchman's Breeches interspersed in a clump, since that is how they grow at Birchbank. The latter two looked pretty good this afternoon.

I think I goofed on transplanting celandine from my yard. According to some sources, including the USDA, Celandine Poppy is native to the south and west of Connecticut (Penns and Maryland). The CT Botanical Society says Celandine is from Europe. After some head scratching and web browsing I discovered there are several plants called celandine (ah, yes, that's why they want us to use only Latin names which no one can pronounce or remember). One is native, but it looks like the one I have (I think is it Greater Celandine) is not. Phooey.

I was disappointed to find both gates left wide open this evening, just after I placed signs asking people to keep them closed.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Native Species

A reminder about what "native species" is all about - the plants and animals originally from this region, like this tiny red eft, which I uncovered in the pipsisswa.

And....the fence is done!!!!! Whoohoo!! Terry and Ryan worked in the rain for several hours to complete the job.

I spent much of this cool, rainy day transplanting and distributing the pile of leaf mulch that Richard dropped off. I took a few Dutchman's Breeches and Red Trillium from Birchbank. There are thousands of Dutchmans Breeches and hundreds of Trillium there, so they won't be missed. I did note that the soil at Birchbank, which was historically the Housatonic floodplain, is a very dark, rich silt. Quite different from the glacial soils at Eklund, so I don't know how they'll do. Transplanting was difficult because the silt just fell off of the roots and everything was essentially barerooted.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Gates & Bluets

Terry, Ryan and Richard installed two gates today - one left to go!
The photo below is Ryan with our new puppy Biscuit, a fox terrier.

Allison purchased some bluets from Earth Tones last fall and they are in full bloom now. Of course now I see them growing wild all over the place, especially along Bridgeport Ave and in Riverview park next to the playground, although they seem smaller and whiter, which made me wonder if the Earth Tones version was a cultivar. But then I spotted the bluets below growing right in the middle of Nells Rock Trail. The photo got washed out, but they are actually just as blue as the ones above.
Posted by Picasa