Sunday, May 24, 2020

MM #81: Learning My Lessons (or a Garden Tour with Dad)

Golden Currant - May 23, 2020
Nature has a way of teaching us.  Such as: don't plant your pots before the end of May!  You would think I would know better, having lived in Montana for three years.  But sometimes the heart outpaces the head!!!

As faithful readers know, I even started a garden journal last year (see June 9, 2019July 21, 2019, and September 8, 2019), to document my learning and for other reasons.  Sigh.  But not all is doomed - I have good news as well, and some of it even derived from my knowledge gained last year.

And how can I be downcast when I am IN MY GARDEN?  It is a joy that vibrates through my whole being, and hard to explain to any but other gardeners.  If I am ever somewhat morose, it is when I think of my Dad, and how I would thrill to give him a garden tour, as he was wont to do with all family, and anyone else that he could swindle into it!  So, you will be patient with me in this post, as I act out a garden exploration with my Dad.

May 7, 2020
Let us begin at the driveway entrance.  In May 2019, we built jackleg fences to mark the driveway,  and the next month we added flower baskets to sections of the fence using chicken wire and coconut fiber.  This year, we added a layer of black plastic between the fiber and the soil to aid moisture retention.  In hindsight, we should have poked some holes through the plastic to allow for some drainage.  After several days of steady rain, I feared the whole structure might break under the weight, and I found myself out there trying to punch holes from beneath with a screwdriver.  Marginally successful.  Also, we planted too soon- on May 13, Spousal Unit helped me rig temporary covers from clothes hangers and trash bags since frost was in the forecast.  It did the trick, but what a pain!!!
I'm talking about flowers, and I can envision my Dad sizing up
trees, hands on hips, shrewdly observing that two of our
larch transplants don't look healthy.
Rocky Mountain Bee Plant - May 23, 2020
In August 2019, our-neighbor-with-a-digger helped us construct the flower bed near our "address rock".  As I wrote in this post, fall transplanting included the red osier dogwood, juniper, pearly everlasting and Russian sage.  All have survived the winter except for the sage.  In the fall, I also planted coneflower, goldenrod, rocky mountain bee plant, aster, aspen fleabane and grass seed.  In the spring, I sowed blanket flower, columbine and yarrow.  Thus far, I can clearly identify the bee plant, first based on location; now I can discern the plant by its leaves.  Coneflowers may also be sprouting, but it will take a few more weeks to be sure.  On a whim, I also threw some sunflowers by rocks on the other side of the driveway, and they have emerged!

Transplanted lupine - May 20, 2020
As we stroll up the driveway, I cannot spot any of the lupines that I sowed in the fall.  It doesn't help that I didn't mark my planting spots!  Such a mistake - WHAT was I thinking?  If Dad was here, I would take the opportunity to reminisce about planting beans (or was it peas?)  Back in the day, Dad coated them with some black stuff, and then us kids would poke them into the ground.  With the benefit of age and learning about planting lupine seeds, I realize the "black stuff" was an inoculant - I performed the same operation when sowing my lupines in the fall.  Maybe they will still grow, but I am skeptical given that other lupines in the area are well underway.  In fact, my kind Dear Neighbor Friend took me to a nearby ridge and we harvested 29 lupines of varying sizes, which were transplanted along the driveway.  Some sources say lupines don't tolerate root disturbance, but it is an experiment.  So far, 5 are perky, 7 are middlin' and the remainder look downright dead.  Time will tell.

Columbine volunteers: May 23, 2020
Arriving at the flagstone path to the front door, we begin to see the "formal" landscaping installed in June 2018.  I have been very pleased that some of the plants are propagating nicely.  Case in point: the columbines.  In this area alone, I have 6 "volunteers".  Second example: the goldenrod.  Too many "babies" to count.  It does appear that the seeds do best when they have something to grip to, like gravel.  Perhaps otherwise, they simply blow away.  In many cases, the instruction is to sow "on the surface:.  Well, there you go.  And THERE they go!  So I think I will, in future, try sowing this type of seed among some gravel, which can later be removed.
Goldenrod nursery - April 26 - May 23, 2020
Ah, the pot on the front porch (and the other pots, too, for that matter).  A sad story.  Clearly, planted too soon on May 10.  The coleus have already withered away, and the black susan vines are not faring much better.  Just one too many nights with cool temps and days with light snow that didn't stick.  Lesson learned!
Pots on May 10 - and no, I am not going to show you how they look now
By the way, we do think Spring has been later and cooler than last year.  As "evidence", ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit the following comparisons.
Left:  May 21, 2019 (flowers forming)                   Right: May 23, 2020
Goodland Apple
Left: May 21, 2019                                                                  Right: May 23, 2020
Norway Maple
Left:  May 21, 2019                                               Right: May 23, 2020
Some sections of the "formal" landscaping still look orderly, with rounded clumps of plants at regular intervals.  Other areas are starting to fill in, randomly, and in the manner I have envisioned.  As I gaze upon some higgledy-piggledy areas in my flower beds, I wonder what Dad might say.  I remember him as a perfectionist when it came to his lawn, trees and vegetable garden, although he would clearly tolerate a volunteer tomato or two.  I don't recall much in the way of flowers, so I wonder.

In its "final" stages, I hope for a prairie, awash with a variety of plants and bushes, growing together in a riot.  This means a few things: 1) I have to be patient, and let a plant grow for a while in order to determine if it belongs, 2) it is harder to decide if something has been nibbled, and 3) since I have more plants, I don't freak out as much if ONE is nibbled!

Oil Beetle is distinguished from other Blister Beetles by its short wings
I have discovered a new "enemy", the Oil Beetle.  Weeding one day, I noticed this prehistoric-looking creature eating a plant.  What?  I took a picture, squished it with a stick and then looked it up.  An Oil Beetle may seem an ordinary black bug, but its secret weapon (a caustic chemical called cantharidin) can blister human skin.  It is part of a family of Blister Beetles, which are fond of flowers, nectar and plant juices.  I see them frequently now, and if they are on one of my ornamental plants, they are DEAD.  This creature might explain "nibbling" that has happened in the past when plants were caged.  Below is an aster that has been stripped of its leaves.  I think I know the culprit!

Dad had an arsenal of bug-fighting tools at his disposal, and the one that stands out in my memory was a knee-high metal canister with an attached tube and nozzle.  It had a pump handle, and its main use was to spray the fruit trees.  I also remember Sevin being applied liberally to chase off aphids, and it was easy to turn to that last year when I had an infestation.  But sometimes, no tool or product was necessary.  Give him a cutworm on a prize tomato plant, and he would grab it and PINCH, it would be oozing green caterpillar juice on his fingers.  I surmise that's why I reacted without thinking when I saw that beetle munching its way through my plant! 

As we pass around the side of the house, and take the stone steps down to the "back yard", I am sure my Dad would be looking at the grass and wondering when we will get out the mower.  In the fall of 2018, we sowed 50 pounds of wild grass seed, combined with wildflower seed.  Last fall, we added top soil to the remaining barren areas, and I scattered grass seed that I had painstakingly gathered by hand.  As you can see in the comparison pictures, we have progressed from construction zone to "I am thinking about being a prairie."  Spousal Unit has suggested that we buy more grass seed this fall to save my collecting it, and I am on board for that!
Top: area near fire pit - May 21, 2019
Bottom: same location - May 22, 2020
May 23, 2020 - Penstemon and Coreopsis
Actually, I think Dad would understand that my dream for my garden and "yard" is different than his.  Dad had his favorites, his "pride and joy," in his garden.  I am no different.  The "apple" has not fallen far from the tree.  Anything that is blooming, gives me joy.  I am thrilled that plants are settling into the rocky areas, lending a natural, "we've always been here" look to our stone steps.  I am excited about plants that gave me fits last summer, only to come roaring back this spring.  
I took care to guard the strawberries, since they were some of the
first plants to be nibbled last year.  They are thriving.
Top - yellow penstemon original plant
Bottom right and left: "volunteers" - amazing when you consider the mama plant was afflicted with aphids!
And as the boundary between the "formal" and the "woods" begins to blur, I have a growing appreciation for the naturally occurring plants in this region.  They were here first, and I welcome them to mix and mingle and make my dream come true.

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  1. Such wonderful photos, we love gardening season but it's too bad we don't have a garden. We have hard red clay and not much grows in it, at least nothing we'd want to grow. Have a most wonderful week.

  2. Gardening after frost... that's always important - we have here the so called "Eisheiligen" in May - I must search for translation, dear Angie.

    So I wait for warmer days, to plant my tomatoes for example.

    ...and gardening is the best medicine against Corona depression ever. I enjoyed reading, seeing the lovely blooms. Know the variegated nettles, they we have in the house on the window sill.

    Stay healthy and well.
    Happy MosaicMonday

    Heidrun xxx

  3. Good start to lovely flowers in your garden. I did something similar for a strip of flowers along the side of my floating garden. My first try was using several layers of ground cover cloths nailed in place. It lasted two years before it rotted out and mice chewed their way through it. The next try was using what we call mill felt. It is a porous fiberglass cloth they use in the paper mill. The good part it allows rain water to pass through. That's essential for most of the year. The down side is it doesn't hold enough water during the hot summer. I've found growing alyssum. After two years their root structure has helped hold moisture. Each fall I only cut the tops down and it reseeds itself for the spring. Well, I hope so. I have no way of knowing what it is doing right now. - Margy

  4. ...gardening in your neck of the woods is all about proper plants selection and wire fencing! Thanks Angie for hosting.

  5. Wishing you a wonderful summer garden, especially strawberries! I know ours are doing very well! Have a grand week!

  6. My goodness...we've had a bad run with flowers as well. Our weather was "hot" in Feb. then it took a nose dive. So much rain, so so much rain, then days and days of 60-70 degree weather with an occasional 80s, right back down in the 60-70s again. almost 90. My flowers have not fared well.

  7. your spring seem to be pretty much at the same level as ours in Sweden. On my balcony I will soon have Columbine flowers. I think mine are red that will open any day. We also have wild strawberry flowers. As I don´t have a garden I don´t have much to share about that. It is bedtime for me, so, Good night :)

  8. I enjoyed the tour with you and your dad (mine also loved his flowers, especially his roses which were amazing). I remember reading about your Goodland apples before ... it’s lovely the way you incorporate family and memories into your home . And I really like the fact that you welcome the wildflowers! Thanks for sharing and, as always, for hosting.

  9. Making a natural garden with perennials is certainly a process. We have many critters here that enjoy eating many of our plants so it can also be frustrating. Also, our nightly temperatures are too cool for many warm loving pants. I'm always happy to see something thriving!
    I always try to look up last expected frost dates here in Colorado for our area, as they change year to year, but even then we have been surprised with snow. Today we happily had rain but the mountains had heavy snow!

  10. Glad to hear that your garden/prairie is coming along despite all the setbacks, it is difficult to hold back from planting too soon when all we want to do is get out there and grow stuff! God luck at keeping those beetles at bay they sound horrendous. Happy MM.

  11. Hello,I enjoyed the tour and photos of your garden. I just love the flower baskets you made, what a great use of materials. The strawberries will be great, yum! Our temps are below normal and we can usually have a late frost. So we are waiting to plant annuals in our deck pots. Good luck with the battle of the beetle. Thanks for hosting MM! Enjoy your day, wishing you a happy new week!

  12. It takes time to find out what grows well in your climate and soil. And it's nice to welcome some wildflowers...they are more beautiful than anything you can find in a store. I know they can be invasive though and can take over areas. Have a good day!

  13. Your Dad would have been proud of you for lovely garden. My mother loved gardening..She had a gorgeous garden of beautiful flowers..So I felt like I was going down memory lane with you, too,

  14. As a gardener who had the love of gardening instilled into him by his mother, I can understand so well the sentiments of your post this week, Angie. And as Mum often says, "no pain, no gain..." But does it have to hurt sooooooo much? :-)

  15. Isn't it wonderful to be inspired by family?
    Your post is inspiring. It's such a beautiful time of year.

  16. It’s great you’ve got your dad’s gardening gene and probably so much more. I’ve found that in my garden, plants refuse to be rooted in some places. They tell me where they want to go and where they are willing thrive in the growing seasons that follow.

  17. I wish I had room for strawberries. I'm seriously considering extra container gardens. We'll see if I can get my husband interested too. I just read an article about hydroponic indoor gardens.

  18. My Colorado boy went camping with friends this weekend but had to leave the mountain when snow started and on his drive home, he said there was snow and hail to contend with, three accidents along the way and someone even flipped their car off the side of the road. Scary! I'm a fan of wild spaces so am especially fond of volunteer plants. Nature certainly knows best where it fits in.

  19. Looking good my friend! Sorry some of your plants got bit by the frost. I have made it a rule, to plant the first week of June. I have a friend who always plants on Mother's Day, and then she wonders why they die or just sit there and do nothing. I keep telling her, it's too cold! I went to my Nursery the other day and had a nice chat with the owner. We discussed putting seeds in. She was saying how the soil hasn't even warmed up, so I could still put in some morning glories. It is a lovely day here in the south. The lilacs are going crazy and have just started to bloom. May you have a wonderful Memorial Day! Take care, kit

  20. I am so grateful to have garden space this year. I put 4 strawberry plants in this week in their 'own' bed'. Flowers in the front planters are doing well, their colour makes the day brighter. Thank you for sharing your wonderful 81st Mosaic Monday - what a wonderful and HUGE garden/growing area you shared today.

  21. Angie, For sure spring is a bit late this year. Loved the garden tour! Have a great week. Sylvia D.

  22. You are ambitious. I am a lazy gardener. Blister Beetles sound unpleasant, although they could be a metal band.

  23. It's nice to have stories of experiences and memories your father taught how to do good gardening. To some extent remind my deceased father who always taught to love the environment and participate in preserving nature. Thank you your size is very good and inspires many people to do the same thing.

    Greetings from Indonesia

  24. Thank you for the lovely tour of your garden, it takes time to get established and work out which plants are happy where, nice to see self seeders coming up. That black beetle sounds a bit ordinary, I would be squashing it too!! I hope you have a great spring garden once the weather settles.

  25. I am not a gardener and can always benefit from the advice of gardeners. I so appreciate those who can thrive in a garden and make a garden thrive. I am the benefactor of gardeners who went before me on this piece of land. Thankfully some plants keep coming back regardless of my neglect. Such sweet memories of your dear dad.

  26. thank you for the tour of your garden. Sadly I missed the link up this week. enjoy the rest of your week and happy gardening.

  27. Once again I am amazed by your comprehensive knowledge of plants Angie. Your yard/garden is looking as though it will be one big nature reserve. I am a little disappointed you squished the beetle because I am a great believer in everything having its rightful place in the system, but I admit I never heard of Blister beetles. We make an exception for the slugs that eat the young plants and leave those slimy trails everywhere.

  28. i like that your garden resembles your dads, you will always think of him as you walk around it!! it is beautiful!! i planted my pots too soon also, but i was able to bring them into the garage where they survived fine!! you have a lot of very natural plants around you. those that were there first, spend time nurturing them and it will be bountiful!!! you have a really pretty landscape!!!

  29. Oh thank you for sharing your garden with me and so glad your Dad's spirit is with you ~ great photos ~

    Be Safe, Be Well,

    A ShutterBug Explores,

    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  30. I love your tour. I am not gardener but I made lots of money in high school helping gardeners do their thing and my wife is a gardener. What I love is that you have a wide variety of plants from a wide variety of sources and some work, some don't, some do great, some not so great. You made some mistakes, you had a lot of success. You are fighting off the bugs. You are a tinkerer and will change a few things and see how it does. I love all that about gardening. I just don't like doing it myself.

  31. I used to have a lot in the community garden a few years ago but the one here is not being worked i=on because of the virus. Hopefully next year. Wishing you a wonderful garden season with lots of everyhting.:)

  32. As one who is never happier than in a garden, I totally understand your passion and love for yours. I too adore any plant that blooms. I find here the columbines take seed wherever they will and flower in the gazillions....and we have winds that can uproot one's house from it's foundations. Your garden is a joy, Angie and in a couple of seasons you will not believe how much it has thrived. As for the seasons, they will not be controlled; they just come whenever they decide to. Thank you for the beautiful stroll through your garden. Your dad would be very proud of his daughter and 'her' garden.

  33. I enjoyed your photographs.
    It's very nice that your garden resembles your dads.
    Flowers and plants can hold special memories of loved ones.

    All the best Jan


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