July 15: summer blooms

The garden is in full bloom, and a monarch came to visit the back garden beds today. My work killing lawn is paying off!

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Monarch on milkweed
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Cleome
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Lamb’s ears
shasta daisy 44
Shasta daisy
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The back beds are filling in

The front is starting to fill in as well.

liatris and sedum 15
Autumn joy sedum and liatris
front cleome zinnias bird bath and butterfly bush 22
Cleome, Miss Ruby butterfly bush, and bird bath
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Front bed from behind
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Bumblebee on lavender

July 7: flowers in the garden!

I need to get out my real camera, but in case I don’t get a chance to do that before the flowers pass, I wanted to capture where the blooms are right now. I’m enjoying watching everything fill in. I’ve got my fingers crossed that next year, when everything is a bit more established, it will begin to fill in more.

The bees, small butterflies, and hummingbirds were out in full force yesterday. Still not seeing many of the larger butterflies yet, though — the monarchs and swallowtails. I remember having to wait a long time for them last year as well.

We’ve got two bird feeders out back, which we love to watch. Birds are super active in the newly planted back hill, including ground birds like doves and robins. With the higher bird population, I fear for the poor caterpillars out there. Rue is generally covered in swallowtail caterpillars, and I’ve only seen one so far this year. I’m hoping with the variety and number of plants out there, they’ll be able to find some shelter and at least grow up to become butterflies.

zinnias, liatris, bird bath
Zinnias, liatris, lemon balm, bird bath

 

Spring is springing!

It’s two weeks until our average final frost date (April 29), and I spent this weekend sowing seeds: Cleome, Bachelor’s Buttons, Coreopsis, and Brazilian vervain, along with lettuce, tendersweet peas, and some more chamomile and feverfew.

mid april seed packets
Two weeks til average final frost. Time to sow these seeds.

I repotted my little bluestem and Scabiosa seedlings — their roots extended for inches beyond the hole in the bottoms of their beginner pots — and put all the seedlings outside for a little while yesterday and today to start hardening them off. I may be doing that too soon.

I also, for the first time ever, planted some ornamental grasses. I’m really excited about these, especially since we get a lot of wind. They are graceful in the breeze, with their blades waving. I bought two natives (Muhly and switch grass) and two others that I just like the looks of and that were the right size for the space I wanted to put them in.

All of these are planted in the new bed on the back hill:

Apparently it is still early for grasses. I have two more I want: a pink muhly for the mailbox, and three prairie dropseeds for the front bed. I’ll keep going back to the nursery every week until they come in.

I’ve got a couple more rounds of seeds to sow. The main batch is the week after the final frost date. That’s when I can put in the sunflowers, zinnias, dill, basil, Dianthus, and nasturtiums. And then, I wait. Wait to see if my transplanted perennials emerge and survive on the hill. Wait to see which seeds sprout. Wait to see comes up that I’m not expecting.

Every day, I walk the garden looking for new leaves, new buds, new sprouts. Birds hop around in the beds, nabbing insects and worms. The flower beds are much more interesting and lively than a grass lawn.

I love this time of year. I know things are happening underground that I can’t see, and that every day there will be something new to delight me. The anticipation is delicious.

For now, I took advantage of this grey morning to get out my real camera and document what’s happening in the garden right now. This time last year, the redbud and dogwood were in bloom, and a lot of the herbs were already out and green. Not so this year. Not yet.

dogwood flower bud (1)
The dogwood is not quite flowering yet
redbud buds (1)
The redbud is almost flowering
tulips
First tulips. The deer got the leaves but not the buds.
salvia buds
Blue Salvia buds
violas
I needed some flowers, so we added annuals.
wheat shoots ermerging (1)
The blue wheat is emerging! I figured the birds would eat all the seeds.
liatris emerging by bird bath (1)
The liatris is coming back up, and the lemon balm (behind the bird bath) survived division and transplanting

We’re expecting to get a ton of rain tonight and tomorrow. I hope it doesn’t wash all my seeds away. Monday night’s low is 32℉ (0℃), so I hope everything survives.

I’m okay with everything holding off for a couple more days until this storm passes through, and it gets cold, and then it warms up again. Then the trees can bloom and my seeds can start sprouting.

August 4: flower boxes are surviving

By August, our flower boxes are usually brown and desicated. Somewhere along the way we had forgotten to water, and in summer sun and heat, it doesn’t take long without hydration for the plants in these tiny boxes to shrivel and die.

This year I lined the coconut liners with plastic and I water them every day. And, what do you know, it worked! I put these plants in the boxes on July 2, and here they are a month later, still alive. It’s amazing what the basic necessities of life will do.

In other news, the rue cuttings I started on May 19, and put in the ground sometime in early July (maybe the same day I planted the flower boxes), have new growth! Only one of the cuttings actually had baby roots when I transplanted them into the earth, but now two of the cuttings have survived, put energy into their roots, and are finally starting to make new leaves as well.

I also planted a phlox — Phlox paniculata ‘Younique Old Pink’ — after the kids and my husband came home from a hike a few weeks ago and my son said, “Mom! Do you have any phlox in the garden? We saw some on our hike and it was _covered_ in butterflies.”

Of course I had to have some.

I’ve been on a hunt ever since. It was in every nursery in the spring, but late July and August are not really gardening season, so none of my regular suppliers had any. I found some at Lowe’s today and grabbed one. I planted it next to my chair, under our bedroom window. It is quite fragrant, and I can’t wait until we can open the windows again and smell it from inside.

Everything is in bloom, and I love it. I spent much of my day off today in the garden, watching butterflies and enjoying the summer abundance. I need to get out my real camera to capture some of this beauty so I can keep it for winter.

Weeded and mowed. And first monarch caterpillar!

I cut back the bee balm this week. It’s stems sprawled, leafless and leggy, and a mildew rusted the few withered leaves that were left. A fresh crop greens the ground where the desiccated bee balm swayed before, and fresh stems leaf towards the sky. 

Cutting that back inspired me to demolish the catnip as well. It had bushed into a chest high tangle of brown stems and withered leaves at its base and almost to its tips, leggy and past its prime. Birds and bees still loved it for its flowers and seed heads, which caused significant internal conflict about cutting it back. We’ve got a ton of other flowers and seeds and branches for perching, so I whacked it.

 After two weeks out of the garden, and after a drenching rain, I needed to trim and neaten. Weeds trashed the garden. It looked like an abandoned parking lot. The grass was shin high and gone to seed as well. The yard was not tidy like I like it.

All week I watched the forecast, hoping for a pleasant Saturday to garden. All week, the forecast called for rain. I slept in, and when I awoke, the sun shone on sparkling wet grass. 

I spent the morning tearing out weeds, snipping dead flower stems, chopping aphid-infested seed pods off of milkweed. And in doing so, found our first monarch caterpillar of the season:

Everything is blooming, and the hummingbirds don’t mind that I cut back the bee balm. One just thrummed in front of me, zipping over to the firecracker plant. It’s drinking there now. I’ll finish up the mowing and go sit in my chair to enjoy the flowers without the distraction of weeds and tall grass.

Status of the garden: July

We’ve been away or I’ve been working the past few weekends, so I haven’t had a chance to spend much time in the garden. It’s a beautiful morning, though, and I took a few photos before starting work today.

The current status of the garden is: in bloom. In bloom and being eaten by bunnies.

  • Echinacea, zinnias, milkweed, blanketflower, lavender, blazing star, black eyed Susans, bee balm, hydrangea by the stairs are all in bloom, and the yarrow is in its second round of blossoms.
  • Bee balm is past it’s peak and is looking pretty bad. We need something low and bushy in front of it to hide it’s legginess.
  • Joe Pye and Shasta daisies should bloom soon. I don’t see flower buds on the hilltop hydrangea.
  • Mailbox wildflowers are doing great. Cosmos, candytuft, calendula, and a blue flower — maybe stock? — all blooming.
  • Bunnies ate the yellow milkweed in the back garden and also many of the wildflowers. The remaining wildflowers are slower going than out front. Calendula seems to be doing well.
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From the hill: black eyed Susans, blazing star, and zinnias
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Zinnias we grew from seed
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Milkweed before the aphids come; no caterpillars yet
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Echinacea looking good in July

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Herb garden needs to fill in
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Wildflowers from seed mixed with established indigo salvia
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I replinished the flower boxes last week; they had browned pretty badly