I drove out to Flower Factory last Sunday morning as I had a FF gift certificate that was burning a hole in my pocket. As early I arrived there was still a row of cars lined up in the entrance lot. It was hot, sunny and the summer flowers were blooming their heads off making a fabulous statement as I parked my car. It was so sunny that it was impossible to take any decent photos which was disappointing as the place looked as delicious as always.
It didn't take me long to fill a wagon — and I hardly deviated from my list! I worked in my garden early in the day on Tuesday getting many of my new purchases settled in. Not visible in this photo are a whole group of small plants (thymes, Sedums, Dianthus etc.) that were at the top of my buying and planting list as I am still trying to fill in along the new stone steps in the front garden. I also planted the Blood Grass (left rear), splitting it two pieces that I triangulated with a clump already in place in the garden. Added a Bergenia 'Pink Dragonfly' with very narrow leaves (front right in the wagon). Hoping its location at the top edge of the stone wall will make it more rabbit-proof.
I managed to get nine plants in the ground on Tuesday but the heat, humidity and mosquitoes have kept me indoors since then. I still have 13 plants left to deal with but I have specific locations in mind for all of them. There are three Polystichum mackinoi and five Adiatum venustum which will be planted as groups so that will be easy.
We have garden visitors coming at the end of the week who've never been here and another magazine editor in September. It means I am going to have to get outside and weed and deadhead and get planting regardless of weather or bugs. At least the rain that fell overnight will make those chores easier even it it means the mosquitoes won't be going anywhere soon.
During the last days of July we had 7.50 inches (19.05 cm) of rain fall on our garden in a week. Half of it fell in just a few hours on July 21. That much moisture — coupled with high temperatures — sent the garden into overdrive. And it caused a massive mosquito hatch! I've hardly seen a mosquito this summer or last, so this result is a shock to say the least. Every time I go out to cut a flower clouds of the little monsters rise up from among the plants. It would be interesting to watch if they didn't surround you in a flash.
It rained again at the end of last week which didn't help things. Now the weather is cooler and beautiful and I can't go out in the garden to look at it let alone work in it. So I am going to do all those garden book reviews and summer recipe posts I've been saving up until I can get back outdoors with a trowel and a camera.
Some people are dog lovers. Some are crazy for cats. We're fond of ducks, in particular the Mallard pair that have been visiting our pond annually since 1998. That's a long time and getting near the natural end for this variety living in the wild, or at least the wilds of a city park. Last year they barely visited and always for a brief time. If we so much as opened the door to the deck they flew away in a huff.
This year they've been coming almost daily, sometimes flying in and out two or three times. They swim, they doze, they dive. And they don't seem to mind us at all. They've ignored us as we work in the garden often quite close to the pond. We're not sure what's different this year but we are enjoying their presence. And like anyone who's fond of their pets, we take lots and lots of pictures of them. Here are a few of the most recent ones.
Just when you think you know which plants the critters like to munch on and you've caged them all for protection, the blankety-blanks go for something different. My garden currently looks like I have a special relationship with a chicken wire dealer given the number of shrubs and small trees that have wire walls around them. Maybe that's the reason the critters have taken to digging up Iris tubers and tossing them around and even chewing on them.
But this week they did something entirely new: they started eating the luscious fat buds on the ten-year-old Japanese woodland Peony which is ready to bloom as soon as some warmer weather returns. I discovered bitten-up buds scattered around on the ground around the Peony had when I went for a walk around the garden, so now it's caged too! This is getting a little tiring especially since I haven't actually seen a rabbit this Spring but it does not seem like anything I've ever seen squirrels do.
The Spring 2016 issue of Olbrich Botanical Gardens' newsletter arrived at the end of last week. It contained a short but very disturbing article. Olbrich is suspending their annual leaf mulch sale. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is recommending that leaves not be spread throughout Dane County due to the possibility of spreading the invasive and highly destructive jumping worms (Amynthas app.), according to the newsletter.
Typically Olbrich gets massive amounts of local leaves helping the city keep them out of landfills. Olbrich turns them into wonderful mulch that I've been buying just about as long as they've been selling it. It is a great product and an important source of revenue for the gardens. Jumping worm cocoons have been found to survive the winter in Wisconsin and can be spread through soil, compost, and mulch (hardwood and leaf), according to the Olbrich web site.
Dane Country is at the western edge of the section of southeaster Wisconsin where the worm has been reported. They were discovered in the UW-Madison Arboretum in 2013. To find out more about the worm, what it looks like and what to do if you find it in your garden, visit the DNR website here. You can print out a jumping worm identification card and a brochure from the site.
A newly planted and mulched bed in 2010.
The worms are long (a gardening friend measured one at 11 inches!), and slither and jump like snakes. "They change the soil by disrupting the natural decomposition of leaf litter on the forest floor. They turn good soil into grainy, dry worm castings (poop) that cannot support the understory plants of our forests. In residential and urban areas they can also harm ornamental plantings and turf," according to the DNR site. This is very serious stuff and besides, the worms are creepy. I have learned to live with many critters during the years I've gardened but snakes have never been one of them.
On the heels of that news came word that the West Side Garden Club will not be selling plants from member's gardens this year for the same reason: to avoid potentially spreading this invasive worm. They will sell the plants that they get from a commercial grower since those folks use sterile potting soil. This is a blow to gardeners as the West Side sale is one of the best in the area. All of my wonderful Primroses have come from there. Not only that, but the organization — like most local garden groups — donates the profits from their sale to public gardens like Obrich and Allen Centennial Garden to name just two. I've also talked to some members who say they will not buy any plants at local plant sales that come from area gardens because of this issue.
The worm is a recent enough problem that there is not enough research to suggest any solutions at this point. Bad news any way you look at it and not the way any of us want to begin the gardening season. Makes all those big yellow x's marking the Ash trees to be removed in the onslaught of the emerald ash borer seem not so bad.
Mark dumping a load of Olbrich mulch in our driveway a number of years ago.
It's a gray, chilly, rainy, wonderful day. Fred and Ethel just made their first appearance of the season in our pond! This makes nineteen years that the Mallard pair have shown up in our garden to take advantage of our pond. Last year they came on March 29. I've been keeping track of their arrival date as the main phenological note-taking that I do.
Mallard pairs are monogamous and they live to about 20 years. Of course, we can't be sure these are our original pair but every year at this time one pair show up and we like to believe it is the same couple. This early in the season they are pretty skittish about humans so we just watched them — and took this photo — through our double-glazed windows. Once they saw us moving about, they flew off. They'll be coming and going from now until about the end of June. They've never nested in our garden but they have brought their ducklings for a swim a couple of times over the years.
Our crazy warm weather has had me in the garden cutting back the old foliage on all my Epimediums before they start to send up this season's flowers. I've taken lots of photos but somehow have not managed to get them on the computer. You know how that is.
It feels way too early to be seeing Hellebores popping up and woodland Peony buds pushing out of the ground. Iris pumilla (below) is starting new growth which is fairly typical.
Seeing all these plants suddenly visible up sent me to my records to look at when they typically bloom in my garden. Snowdrops appear anywhere from mid-March to mid-April, though they've also arrived as early as February in 2012 when we had a warm, early Spring. Hellebores usually start blooming between mid-April and mid-May while the earliest the Epimediums have ever flowered was mid-April in 2012. So I will need to keep an eye on everything for my record-books.
While I was rambling around the garden looking at everything I discovered something I've never seen before in years of gardening. Something dug out Iris tubers and ate the better part of them! I grow at least six different varieties of Irises and have never had a problem like this before. I probably would not mind it so much if this wasn't a special old-fashioned pale yellow Iris germanica that I begged from my neighbor. Every Spring I look over the fence and admire it in her garden.
When I got a few tubers last summer, I watched them all season to make sure they settled in with no problems. And then I went looking for them this Spring to be sure they made it through the winter. They've been doing nicely until the last few days when I discovered the horrid mess you see in these photos.
Anyone ever have this happen to their Iris or have an idea about who might be doing it? Rabbits? Squirrels? Not the way I want to start Spring in the garden.