Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gardening. Show all posts

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Company in the garden


Giant Swallowtail
Io moth caterpillar (?) on Carolina moonbeam baptisia

Cabbage butterfly on lavender 

cricket or katydid (?) on a Sweet Sammie daylily


Silver spotted skipper moth on beebalm

Bumblebee on beebalm


Everything sure goes to pot quickly in a garden when you go away for a week. But today wasn't too hot so I hauled tools and receptacles out to a section of the garden and got busy. 

Weeds got pulled, daylilies were deadheaded, spent plants were cut back and add to the compost pile.

I don't mind weeding when it isn't too hot or humid and one side benefit is meeting the creatures who keep me company there. A few, like a monarch butterfly,  were too quick for my camera, but here above is a sampling of who was working along side of me today. I am not a hundred percent sure of my identifications. Feel free to correct me where I may be wrong.

If I am right about the Io caterpillar and if you should also find one, please don't pick it up. The spiky bristles on Ios can cause a sting-like reaction. But they sure are handsome, nonetheless.

It's nice to see more bees this year. They were sparse in 2016, but more pollinators and a greater variety of them seem to be hanging out here this summer. 

What is missing from my garden in 2017 are toads and snakes. I think I have only seen two toads and not a single snake this year. I suspect the two things are related. Garter snakes eat toads and with almost no toads around, I guess there wasn't much to entice the snakes to hang out here.  I don't miss the snakes, thank you very much, but changes in my garden's ecosystem always make me worry and wonder why they have occurred. 

What changes have you noticed this year?


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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What is locally grown, and what is not, in Ballston Spa.

 I was picking up a few things in Aldi's today in Ballston Spa. I was intrigued to notice the sign over the apples. I wondered what local orchard Aldi's was buying from.
 (Insert losing buzzer noise here.) They answer is: none. Come on, Aldi's. You disappoint me.

 A little later, the Handsome Husband and I popped into Zest, on Science Street, for a sandwich. We ate outside, on the little porch. Across the street, I noticed a young man working hard at putting in what looked to be a new garden.
 After lunch, I asked him if this was a new community garden. No, he told me. The garden is for a nearby restaurant, the popular Next Door Kitchen at 51 Front Street.
 Matt (as I think his name was) said he was planting an organic garden for herbs and flowers and a few vegetables, all started from seed.
 These would be used for cooking and garnishes at the restaurant. Now that is locally grown.

We have not yet eaten at Next Door Kitchen, but I have heard wonderful things about it. Guess we will have to move it up on our To Do list. How can you not love a place that turns a weedy vacant lot into an organic garden?
 Ballston Spa is really getting a vibe going. As rents in high-end Saratoga Springs continue to soar, all kinds of funky small businesses are putting down roots here instead (literally, it would seem.) There is a plethora of good places to eat, interesting shops, a bakery, antiques stores. If you haven't checked out Ballston Spa lately, you really should.

The SPAC summer season is heating up and the venue is just up the road from the village. Dinner in Ballston Spa before a show would be pretty convenient. But do make a reservation. These favorite eateries fill up fast.



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Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Brief Road Trip


 The Berkshire Botanical Garden, just over the border in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, advertised a Bulb Show this month. Yesterday, I rode along with fellow Thursday Naturalist, Lois, to check it out.

It was a lovely day for an outing and both Lois and I were looking forward to seeing and smelling some spring blooms.

When we arrived after our 45 minute drive from Albany, we were a tad disappointed to discover that this "show" was quite... small. Very small, in fact. What was on display in the one diminutive greenhouse was lovely. However, I think the Berkshire Botanical Garden has made a mistake by advertising this small display of twenty of so pots of  forced bulbs and begonias as a show. They shouldn't have done that. Very misleading. So be forewarned.

On the plus side, the display introduced me to this plant, Clivia miniata, below. Horticulture Magazine describes this as, "A fairly indestructible blooming houseplant ."  They go on to say that because it likes dry air, dry soil and bright light with no direct sun, it is a good match for indoor growing conditions. It also likes to be potbound and will bloom even in a relatively tiny pot. Sounds like something worth trying at my house.

Lois and I did get one good tip from a couple who had popped in to look at the Berkshire "show".  They urged us to check out Smith College's Spring Bulb Show, which runs through March 22. So if you're looking for a more substantial display of flowers, check out the Smith College information here.

For now, I am counting the days until my neighborhood garden nursery opens for the season. I am ready to start digging!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Late Light

This is the time of year when I get discouraged by the state of our gardens. We have lived in this house for eight years now and I am still trying to work out what I want and where I want it and how much labor I want to put into the whole shebang. This varies with the humidity levels.

Late Wednesday afternoon, I went out to tackle one wild corner. I was grumpily toting buckets of weeds to the compost heap when the lowering sun's rays suddenly lit up a red glow in a shrub I'd planted our first summer here. Ah, yes, I remember. That was supposed to be a highbush cranberry, but up to now, it hadn't fruited much. Yesterday, in the right light, it was finally showing off. This made me smile The berries should hang on for a while and may provide some winter color to that corner of the yard. My mood lifted a little.

Another shrub I planted eight years ago is this panicle hydrangea, which puts on a good show in late summer and fall. This one is getting quite large. I like the way the white flowers kind of glow against the woods in the early evening light. Admiring its wild sprawl at the edge of the woods, I was beginning to enjoy my chores a little more.

 In a tamer strip of garden, the low angle of the sun was setting off these late phlox blooms, as well.
 Some of my Mary-golds [sic] are past their prime at this point, poor things, but this cheerful bunch was a-glow in the late light.
 My Tom-mato plants [sic] suffered from Septoria Leaf Spot this summer, causing near complete defoliation. Yet, enough hearty fruits hung on to ripen and give a reasonable crop. There are still a few to come, despite the unwanted attentions of some squirrels and chipmunks.

 Chipmunks also ate nearly every pumpkin seed and sunflower seed I planted this spring. Grrrr. And the few seeds that they missed turned into tender - and apparently tasty- plants that were soon gobbled up. I managed to cage off only one pumpkin plant and it has rewarded me with two plump pumpkins, just now beginning to color up. For next year, I have to figure out some way to keep those chomping chipmunks at bay.

 The rudbeckia is past its peak, but it, too, creates a late day glow in the shadow of a spruce tree.


Pink turtlehead thrives in my yard. It is one plant that the munching critters ignore. But in September, the bumblebees can't get enough of it. They burrow down into the tight blossoms for the nectar they find there.
The annual zinnias keep strutting their stuff. What pops of color they still offer to an otherwise tired garden.
Chrysanthemums, here above and below, are re-blooming from plantings of years past.

Mums are not usually treated as perennials but in my garden, many return year after year.

Here is the kind of insect damage I LIKE to see: Something has been feasting on milkweed leaves. I
hope this means butterflies have been laying eggs here. Monarchs, maybe?

Rose of Sharon would happily take over our whole yard. Maybe I should let it.Volunteers pop up everywhere and bloom within a couple of years.

Hmm, more critter damage.

The cardinal flowers that survive are a buzz with hummingbirds. The little birds are too fast for my skills with the camera. I imagine that the hummers are fattening themselves up for their long migration south.

And here is the culprit who has been munching all of the hosta and cardinal flowers. You know I can see you, right? 

I guess gardening has been ever thus. Plant diseases, garden pests. Yet, we will not starve. We are very lucky and I know it.

On this early September evening, I entered my garden grumpy and out of sorts. The world news alone these day is enough to put one down in the dumps. But I was also brooding about the troubles of others: of a loved one who is in serious trouble; of friends who are dealing with grave health issues. I was also focusing on things that I have left undone, on the many ways that I am not measuring up to my own expectations.  

The garden brought me out of myself. As I poked about, weeding a little here, checking on something there, observing, planning ahead, I inhaled deeply. I noticed and took joy from the hum of pollinators, the glow of late summer blooms and fruits, and yes, even our marauding rabbit. The rhythms of life, the changing of the seasons, it was all there to see, to learn from, in lovely late summer light.



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Monday, March 24, 2014

Tulips, maybe

Chipmunks. In our yard, we have plenty of chipmunks, along with voles and squirrels. I have given up trying to grow tulips because all of these varmints will eat them.

But then I started reading Garden Rant.

Posts by gardeners who blog there, such as Elizabeth Licata (see, for example, this one) and Michele Owens (see hers, too) emboldened me to try another tack.

Last November, I saw a few bags of leftover tulip bulbs marked down to half price at a local store. What the heck, I thought, I will try them in pots like Elizabeth Licata does.

So unceremoniously, I stuck the bulbs in some pots, watered them well, and set them in our unheated garage. I covered the pots with other heavy pots turned upside down to discourage rodents. And then I pretty much forgot about them.

Until this week.

Shoot, I thought. I should have watered those poor tulip bulbs.

But when I removed the inverted coverings ...








Awww, they managed to survive the winter despite my neglect. Big Smile, indeed.

Both pots have been given a good drink of water and the covers will remain off.
As soon as the weather warms up just a little, I will move the pots to our porch. Or maybe inside.

For not much money or trouble, I will have some tulips to enjoy before long.

Thank you, Garden Rant, for the inspiration. (I loved this more recent post, too!)


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Monday, November 4, 2013

One step ahead of the garden police



I never liked Japanese barberry shrubs anyway. They do not have pretty flowers. They smell bad, as in, cat urine bad. They have vicious thorns that really hurt whenever I tried to prune them or to weed in their vicinity. I never could see why folks planted them.


So last year, armed with thick gloves and determination, I did my best to hack to death the two Japanese barberry shrubs that were growing in my yard. I succeeded with one of them, but this remaining one, above, is still putting out a few suckers.
Bwaahahaha...I'll get you yet, my not-so-pretty!

These were not shrubs that I had planted. We inherited them when we bought this house seven years ago. I am guessing that they were part of the original developer's basic landscape package because I see them in all of my neighbors' yards.

And that's too bad because as it turns out, they are about to become illegal to possess. Seriously.

According to a recent story in the Albany (NY) Times Union, it would be illegal for New Yorkers to possess any of more than 120 invasive species under proposed state rules disclosed Tuesday [October 29, 2013]. Japanese barberry is on the list of soon-to-be-banned species.

However, the story goes on to explain that the state is going to delay the ban on selling and possessing Japanese barberry for another year because the Department of Environmental Conservation wants to give the 9,000 licensed nursery growers in New York State time to "sell their existing stocks."

Whaaaa????? These shrubs are so bad for the environment that we're gonna ban them, but not until the dealers get a chance to dump thousands more of them into the yards of unsuspecting homeowners.

Good grief.

Well, at least our landscaping will be in compliance, once I manage to finish off that last thorny, smelly, ugly, evil barberry bush.
(Insert mental image of me ghoulishly sharpening my pruning shears here.)






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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It's September: time to start working on my summer To Do list!


Well, the calendar has flipped over to September and my conscience is bothering me. I have done almost none of the house and garden chores I had intended (hoped?) to do this summer.

Oh, I can plead lousy weather (true) and family priorities (also true). But the real truth is, I just kept feeling like doing something else on nice days. And now, I'm running out of  "next weeks".  It's time to get moving.
I decided to start with something easy, just to encourage myself. Yesterday, I bundled up three bags of clothes that I never wear or no longer fit. Off they went to the thrift shop. Done! Gosh, that felt good.

Today, while the Handsome Husband did some work at home, I made myself scarce and started to tackle the garden. And oh, it needed it. I didn't take any "before " pictures; it would have been too embarrassing. But after a lot of whacking around with the hedge trimmers, yanking out giant weeds, and trimming back bygone perennials, I was beginning to make some progress.

The pink blossoms, above and below, are turtlehead. They bring a nice last hurrah to the late-summer garden beds and thrive on neglect, thank goodness.

The bees were all over the turtlehead today. The blossoms stay folded up tight, more like a bud, so the bees really have to work to get at the nectar, They burrow right down into the flower and nearly disappear, as below.

In addition to the plentiful bees, there were a lot of dragonflies hanging out today. Still no monarch butterflies, however. Haven't seen a single one yet this year.

The resident chipmunks were busy today, too, but they declined to pose for a photo.

This hasn't been a great gardening year for me. Even my tomatoes haven't been all that wonderful, with many split fruits. This is caused by fluctuating temperatures and water supply, some of which is out of my control.

I was feeling a bit discouraged about my gardening skills until I read blog posts from two area expert gardeners this week. Michele Owens, a Saratoga Springs (NY) gardener who posts at Garden Rant, started her most recent post with this sentence: "It was a sorry tomato season."  Aha, so it wasn't just me and my neglectful ways.

And then there was this, from Ballston Spa author Kerry Mendez's  September newsletter, over at Perennially Yours: "...I blushingly admit that my gardens saw a tad less of my attention, which I’ll blame on some of the crazy weather we’ve experienced this summer." 

OK, I feel better now.

So maybe this late attack on weeds will get me off to a better start next spring. For now, I will enjoy watching the mums and other late bloomers come on in somewhat tidier beds. And September is a lovely time to be outdoors. Win, win.

These two neglected beasts would prefer a vigorous walk to gardening.
Thankfully, the Handsome Husband has finished his work and is going to take them out. As for me, I'm pooped!






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Monday, August 19, 2013

Weekend randomness: a birthday, bee balm, butterflies, a bookstore, and ballet slippers

Sunday was our youngest son Tom's 26th birthday and my sister Mary drove up from New Jersey to help celebrate. Tom, she says, is her favorite nephew. (Of course, she says that about all of her nephews.)

I finally had a chance to check out Saratoga's newest bookstore. Northshire Bookstore is in a lovely new building on Broadway and it looks terrific.

There is a sense of humor here, starting as you approach the front door.

Also near the front door, they have wisely provided the Saratoga business must-have: a large bowl of water for visiting dogs.

Downstairs, the store is attractively arranged, with comfortable seating tucked into a few cozy spots.

Upstairs is all for kids, with more cozy nooks and a space for special programs. Northshire Bookstore is a great addition to Broadway. I look forward to going back soon when I have more time to browse.

 I can't make up my mind about Saratoga's fiberglass feet.

Earlier this year, the National Museum of Dance selected 24 artists for a project called Saratoga En Pointe! Each artist decorated a five-foot tall fiberglass ballet shoe sculpture. The ballet shoes are displayed throughout the city.


I guess they are okay, although the chopped off leg is slightly unsettling.

A few years ago, Saratoga did a similar thing with fiberglass horses, like this re-purposed one, below. The horses were very popular, so popular that a few were stolen. They were also popular with drunken tourists who often attempted to ride them.

I bet no one has tried to ride or steal the ballet shoes.

This particular surviving horse has been repainted in honor of the 150th anniversary of Saratoga's famous thoroughbred racetrack.


Back on the homefront, I set out to clean up my late summer garden a bit. The bee balm needs trimming back, as most of the blooms have gone by.
But when I got up close and was about to start snipping, I noticed that bees of all varieties were still finding nectar in the past-it flower heads. I decided to leave them be (so to speak) for a few more days. Cutting back the bee balm will now move to next week's To Do list.


The bees had company in the garden on the nearby phlox. Showy swallowtails were in a near frenzy this weekend.


While I was weeding, three butterflies kept zipping around the same fragrant blooms. It felt like being at a busy airport.

Oh, how lovely these August days can be. I should get back outside right now.





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