Saturday, September 4, 2010

Late Summer Blooms

This was the hottest summer on record for Bridgeport, and it was also very, very dry. We had no water source and the plants struggled to survive. This Hardy Ageratum, though, not only survived, but thrived.

The New England Asters are just starting to open up. Their native blooms are a vivid deep purple. They went to seed last year and popped up all over the garden this spring.

The Garden no longer has that masses of blooms it had earlier in the year. But if you look around, you'll see blooms here and there. Above is a Harebell, still blooming after months of drought.

The Sneezeweed is just starting to bloom. It was cut back early because it was getting too tall.

Ahhh, that's really just a weed. Goldenrod.

The Jerusalem Artichoke is also still blooming, although the blooms are so high up they're hard to see (about 7 feet high).

One of the Black-Eyed Susans, Rudbeckia fulgida.

I think this is Purple Giant Hyssop, a hitchhiker on some purchased natives. Whatever it is, it went to seed and popped up in various places this year.

Here's a cluster of immature Large Milkweed Bugs. That's their real name. They were on the Butterfly Weed, which is related to Milkweed.

Purple Coneflower, still hanging on.

Blanket Flower. After a deep rain about two weeds ago, it put out a handful of new blooms.

The other Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta.

White Wood Asters, although not very flashy, can be counted on in those super-dry shady areas.

Here's a Monarch Caterpillar on the Butterfly Weed, bypassing the Milkweed which is right behind it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Drought

Some years are drier than others, so we had a plan in case of a drought. A gas-powered pump was purchased to transfer water from this old well in a low spot up to the garden beds above. Alas, the well is dry. Last year it was full of clear water. On to Plan B...

Pumping water up from the pond. I'm afraid that, too, is nearly dry. Barely enough water in there for the tadpoles and salamanders. On to Plan C...

...filling up jugs of water from home. This gets old very fast. Yesterday I made 3 trips, taking about 4 hours, applying 25 gallons per trip. The day before was 2 trips, and there were other trips as needed when plants began wilting and losing their leaves.

It doesn't work very well, but has saved most of the plants so far. We added organic material to the soil last year, which stores lots of moisture. Unfortunately, once it's bone dry, it also takes a lot more water to penetrate the soil. It seemed like I watered this area really well, but just scratch the surface and it's still bone dry. This can perk up a wilted plant, but it's wilting again the next day.

Watering efforts have focused on the Butterfly Bed and certain plants along the slope. This one hasn't had any help, and it shows. Earlier in the year the slope was always moist, even if it had been weeks since the last rain, due to water seeping from the hillside. No more seepage these days!
Or this one.

The Sensitive Fern is usually pretty tough to kill (this fern was growing here naturally), but this dry spell has been tough.

We're working on Plan D: Dropping off a holding tank up above the garden along the old drive that once serviced the swimming pool. In the meantime, everyone do a rain dance please!

Monarch Caterpillars; Swallowtail

This is what it's all about: Landscaping as an integral part of the ecosystem, not just something pretty (but sterile) to look at. Here is some leaf damage at Eklund that a person might be tempted to fight with pesticides. But look more closely... the insect eating the leaf is also something good...

...a Monarch Butterfly caterpillar, escaping the midday sun by eating from the bottom of the leaf (you have a better chance of seeing the caterpillars in the evening when it's cooled down). This caterpillar can ONLY eat one of the native milkweed species. It cannot eat any of the foreign plants from Europe or Asia or Africa that are used for landscaping, or which have invaded vacant lots and the sides of roads. There are many other native insects like the Monarch that rely on native plant species.

Common Milkweed is a rather coarse plant for a flower garden or along the house, so it's a good one in a special patch out back. If you have a sunny spot, mix it with Butterfly Weed and Bee Balm for a butterfly patch that is beautiful, deer resistant, native, and very hardy.

Here's a Tiger Swallowtail on the Bee Balm. This flower patch was full of bees, and we get visits from hummingbirds as well. A great addition to the yard. It's native status is unclear - some sources say the midwest, while the USDA says it is native to CT. It's also called Oswego Tea because the Oswego Indians made a drink from it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What are Weeds Part I

I have trouble finding help to weed this garden because what are weeds in normal gardens might be plants here, and what are plants in normal gardens might be weeds here. So I think it might be easier just to show people some of the "weeds" and hope that some volunteers out there would be willing to learn these and help remove them.

Here's a type of sedum that the Eklunds undoubtedly planted. Not native, so it's got to go. It comes back really quick.

This is Canadian Clearweed and even though it looks like nettles and is in the nettle family, it doesn't sting (thank you thank you thank you). It grows like crazy in the shady terraces off to the right. Hmm. Maybe we should find a place for it to grow and make it part of the garden. It's native after all. Although here's a funny like from Wikipedia: "It is sometimes grown as a ground cover or for attracting deer." Oh, I just found this interesting video on the weed. The more I think of it, the more I think we should incorporate this one into the garden.

Red Clover, found along the walk near the Brown Eyed Susans.

A dense cluster of young Black Swallowwort. This is a vine with leaves that are opposite, shiny, and pointy. Phlox also has opposite leaves, but not pointy.

Here's the Black Swallowwort when it's more developed, including seed pods.

Grass. It comes up all over the Butterfly Bed.

Whatever this thing is called.

This stuff gets everywhere. I tend to call it 'clover' but it's actually Wood Sorrel.

That's right, Forsythia. Not native. There was tons of it growing along the slope, especially up top. We cut it back but of course it keeps coming back.

Summer in the Garden

Beautiful day in the garden! The Butterfly Weed is beautiful and getting lots of visits by bees. Coreopsis is in the background.

The Brown Eyed Susans are coming in all over. We did not plant these, just weeded around them.

Here's a view from up above.

To our horror we found the invasive Black Swallowwort was going to seed. The seed pods are somewhat bean-like. So we stopped what we were doing, and filled two large plastic garbage bags with the stuff, mostly from a new patch discovered outside the deer fence up above the garden. These cannot go on the mulch pile!

Here's one of our native caterpillars enjoying the Sedum. This is a Yellow Bear caterpillar, aka Virginia Tiger Moth, a real generalist species and very widespread. It's important to recognize that our landscaping is not just ornamental, but part of the ecosystem. A certain amount of grazing on our plants should be welcomed.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

In Bloom: Coreopsis, Ox Eye, Butterfly Weed, Lupine, Giallardia

Yup, our common Coreopsis can be considered "native." It's natural range is actually a bit to the south (Maryland) but with a warming climate, Connecticut is probably pretty close to its adjusted range.

The Ox Eye (Heliopsis) or False Sunflower is lush and just getting started.

Here's a real favorite: Butterfly Weed. Last year it was pretty spindly, but is looking good this year. This is one that pops up occasionally in hayfields.

The Wild Blue Lupine is at it's peak.

Giallardia (Blanket Flower) is more of a midwestern plant, but looks great. I think this one went to seed last year, as we have a few seedlings.

The Milkweed is also doing better this year.

Weed me! Yes, there's lots to do at the garden. This Maidenhair Fern is competing with a nice crop of weeds.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

American Lady Caterpillars

These American Lady caterpillars were picked off the Pussytoes, which they completely defoliated. This native caterpillar feeds only on a few plants, including the Pussytoes, and one of our goals is to provide food for caterpillars. But this is too much of a good thing!

This is what the Pussytoes looked like before the caterpillars...

And this is what they look like now. If you look close you can see some of the caterpillars.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Wild Blue Lupine

Our Wild Blue Lupine is just starting to bloom. This plant is native to Connecticut and is not to be mistaken with the non-native Lupines that Maine is famous for. It's natural habitat is pine barrens, oak savannas, and areas that have been burned over.

The Karner Blue Butterfly is dependent on Wild Blue Lupine for survival. According to the US Fish & Wildlife, the population of Karners has dropped 99 percent, mostly in the last 15 years.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

In Bloom

The summer flowers are just starting to bloom at Eklund, and they are much fuller this year than last year. This is Gallardia, or Blanket Flower, a popular native perennial for the garden or pots.

A real favorite has been the Sundrops, a type of evening primrose that doesn't take over (and the deer don't prefer). That's the one in yellow in the photo above. You can also see the Penstemmon blooming in the back, behind the Wild Blue Lupine, which is just starting to bloom.

Here's a surviving Harebell. We lost most of our Harebell, and this one was nearly unearthed by a chipmunk who decided he needed a new tunnel entrance and nearly buried the poor thing.

These Penstemmon blooms are shaped just perfect for this bee to enter into the tube. One reason we like to avoid cultivars is that the man-made version of the plant might no longer be the perfect fit for whatever insect is relying on it.

Here's a close-up of our Sundrops Oenothera 'Cold Crik', a natural evening primrose hybrid that does not set seed or take over the garden.