Summer Too Soon

It’s been hot. Hot enough to have had the air conditioning on for well over a week. In the 90’s hot. Humid hot. And we’re only mid May!

It seems to be hard on my plants. They were in the tender, young stages of spring and hadn’t really hardened to the heat. Still, the garden moves along. This weekend was the magical, fairy garden stage when the honeysuckle is in bloom and the greens everywhere are varied and vibrant. But more on that later! With so much blooming, there’s a lot of catching up to do!

Way back in the middle of April, the later spring bulbs were blooming. That included the last few daffodils and my fancy tulips as well as a few more fritillaria, some less fancy red tulips, and wildflowers like trillium, wild ginger, and wild geranium. At the same time, the many varieties of fern were stretching out of the ground and unfurling.

I also had a fun little bird spotting. I looked out of the back door mid April and thought I saw a butterfly. It was so bright and it was flitting around the ground. Then I realized it was a Kentucky warbler. It was a little ahead of the rest of the migrating crowd, and extremely unusual for me to see in my yard. It must have been very tired, because it stuck around near the ground in my back yard for a few hours. It was great to get such a good look at it, and I was very glad to have all indoor cats so I didn’t have to fear that one of them would eat it.

As the bulbs and wildflowers faded, the time for the azaleas and irises arrived. The ferns developed further, and the redbud blossoms fell and were replaced by tiny heart leaves. Finally, it was the alums’ time to bloom. I love their lavender constellations of star-shaped flowers.

My lettuce finally took off. April was unusually cold, so it took a little while for my salad greens to decide that it was a good time to grow. In previous years, the squirrels have dug huge chunks out of my lettuce as they searched for their hidden food caches.

“Not this year!” I thought to myself. This year I put bird net over the greens to discourage the squirrels’ digging, but then the lettuce had a growth spurt and I couldn’t get the net off. I’ve decided it’s an idea worth fine-tuning, though. The squirrels were successfully deterred even though I had a couple salads that included plastic netting.

A batch of bluebells came with my garden when I started it more than 9 years ago. They originally were located in the area I turned into my vegetable garden and have proven difficult to eradicate. I pulled them and pulled them, and still they came back. I chucked them into the yard area under the magnolia, and they didn’t die. They don’t really get enough light, they don’t always bloom, and just get overgrown, so they haven’t particularly endeared themselves to me.

But this spring something happened to make me like them much more. A hummingbird happened through my yard. I saw him, and I apologized to him as I usually do for not having any spring food out.

I’ve attempted in the past to put a feeder out, but I just can’t keep up with the maintenance, even as much as I like hummingbirds. Making more syrup, changing it out every few days, cleaning the feeder. I just can’t do it.

So, I’m glad to have plants around that can do the hummingbird feeding better than I ever could.

The beginning of May brought the annual Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale. I don’t need any more plants, but I love going so much that I went anyway. It’s a huge room full of interesting plant colors and textures. This year there was a special preview sale and I made sure to go at the very start of that to get first pick, like usual.

The next day, I drove to one of the local plant nurseries. I have fond memories as a kid of riding 45 minutes in the car to get to my mom’s favorite greenhouse. My sister and I would spend quite a while looking through all the greenhouses. We’d pull our shopping wagon behind us and fill it with some plants for our gardens. Mom spent even longer picking out her plants for the year.

This year at the greenhouse I got a bunch of succulents and annuals for several planters around my garden.

By this point, things were really starting to shape up in my garden.

Finally it was time for the peonies, baptisia, and the honeysuckle to bloom. I love the way the honeysuckle buds contort into such interesting shapes, particularly the honeysuckle variety on my front fence. Unfortunately, that plant tends to be plagued by aphids. On a few lucky years, the plant is almost finished blooming before the bugs appear. But not this year. See if you can spot the photo below that includes the aphids.

The baptisia is on the east side of the house, so it was beautifully backlit in the morning sun when I went out to get the paper with Perry. He didn’t really appreciate it, but did love to watch the starlings.

Meanwhile the cats are their usual selves. The Ladies are as lovely as ever. They continue to enjoy sitting at their window and looking out on the back yard. They love to watch all the goings on but have zero desire to actually go outside. They enjoy each others’ company. I love the exchange I caught below in which Morgaine seems annoyed by her mother’s public kisses.

And Morgaine continues to show her love of burrowing into things. Here she is burrowing into a bunch of receipts that I laid out on the bed for her and burrowing into the bed upstairs. She’s everyone’s sweet girlfriend.

Meanwhile Perry is still…Perry. He has made some improvements but is still difficult and bity. He also continues to be a goofball. While the weather has been nice I’ve been trying to take him out for walks more often. It was nice during lilac season. I could smell my neighbor’s lilac tree and Perry could nibble on my neighbor’s grass. He’s playful and goofy, and John and I think he enjoys being an indoor cat.

 

 

 

If You Don’t Like the Weather in Indiana…

So much has been changing in my garden and it’s doing it so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. Then the weather changes dramatically around it. One day I see an interesting leaf pattern or color combination. The next day it has changed and developed in a new and interesting way. All this makes it a time of every-changing beauty.

I haven’t been able to keep up.

At this point, my garden is now through the mid-spring blooms. The magnolia has put on its brilliant show, though it was a little muted by cold-damaged petals. Still, there was beauty in their brown freckles and spots. The peony has stretched its tentacles up and out of the ground. Soon it will look like a pretty unassuming green, leafy plant. My many varieties of daffodils have bloomed. So have my favorites, the fritillaries and epimedium. And the ferns have unpacked themselves, uncoiling cell upon cell.

Then an April snow fell on it all. Then rain. Then sun.

It’s a beautiful time of year.

The Good, the Bad, and the Unfortunate

Spring is rolling onward in my garden. The weather has been cool and rainy, which all the spring plants enjoy. The blooms keep blooming, the greens keep growing, and things are beautiful. I managed to find more color shift paint to touch up my purple chair, I’ve gone to the plant nursery and Master Gardener plant sale, and the blackberries are in bloom.

 

looking east

looking west

Unfortunately there have been setbacks. Among them: the longer-term damage from the herbicide that the city sprayed onto my garden is becoming apparent. I’m moving on; I’m not dwelling on it, but it’s there lurking.

One corner of my garden got more drenched than I’d realized. This spring, the shaded corner by the street and my brick fern bed have been bare with the few plants that are there emerging stunted. Here is the spot as of this week:

stunted corner

missing ferns

And here’s what the same areas looked like at this time last year:

more plant mass

this year's fern garden

The only things that seem to be happy are the weeds! I’ve never seen so many poison ivy and Virginia creeper seedlings. So far I’ve done pretty well at avoiding the poison in these guys.

poison ivy and Virginia creeper

I was contemplating whether to wait to see if the plants coming up now will survive or whether I should call them a loss and plant new ones. Then a gardening friend pointed out that the soil itself appears to be poisoned. So I’m thinking I’ll let everything go for this year and hopefully the soil will become fruitful again with time. To try to help it, I decided to start adding new soil to the corner bed. In the bricked area, I dug out as much soil as a could and replaced it with fresh potting soil before planting some new ferns and begonias. Earlier this year, I even applied fertilizer to my mint. Yes, mint.

Here’s the new planting in the brick garden:

a fresher start

And then there’s my privacy fence built from honeysuckle. You can see how that’s doing behind the brick bed. My lush garden walls are mostly gone. But, last weekend I was out working in my garden when a scent came to me strong and lovely. I looked up and realized that it was the remnant of my honeysuckle blooming with abandon. There is hope.

honeysuckle blossoms

Happy Garden of Rainbow Unicorn Dreams

This time of year is perfect. My garden looks beautiful, in part because everything in it is so fresh and new and excited to be alive. I bought several new plants at the annual Master Gardener Plant Sale a few weeks ago (held, funnily enough, on World Naked Gardening Day (no one was naked)) and I shoehorned them into my stuffed perennial bed so it’s an even bigger and fuller mass of colors and textures. The whole garden is a chartreuse land of rainbows and unicorns, and I’ve been spending all my spare minutes in it.

There are no death zones where plants have decided that I pushed them a little too far and they really don’t like where they’ve been planted. The raccoons haven’t held a kegger in the middle of the perennial bed. Nothing is deflated in the summer heat. No bug or slug infestation has wrecked the place. No single plant has decided to crowd out its neighbors until they die. The neighbor hasn’t lobbed bottle rockets into the yard. The next door landlord hasn’t killed my honeysuckle with Round-Up just because he blames the world for his shortcomings.

It’s a paradise that will fall soon enough. I’m just trying to enjoy it while it lasts.

Early May Garden 2015

bits of color

The plants have all emerged from the ground and most are nearing their full size. You can click through the slide show below to see what’s going on in more detail. See if you can spot my cat surveying his domain!

 

Gardening from All the Angles

Real human visitors actually standing in my garden! I’ve had quite a few of them lately and it’s been really, really fun!

If you weren’t able to visit my garden in person, here’s a virtual tour. I had the place looking pretty neat and tidy, if I do say so myself, though it was nice of the plants to cooperate with me! Particularly noteworthy was the honeysuckle, which was in full bloom for the garden tours. I wish I could bottle the smell and spread it over the whole year. It’s so sweet and joyful.

Click on any photo below to get a slideshow tour.

And a view from closer up (again, click on any photo for a slide show)…

My elderly cat has been enjoying the sights, also. He’s starting to have trouble getting around but still enjoys watching birds, getting rubs, and eating his fancy cat food. To make it easier for him to look out the back door, I gave him a chair. He’s incredibly happy about that.

Shamoo watching the yard

Out and About in the Evansville Area

We’ve finally had a string a beautiful weather in Evansville. I’ve been out in it as much as possible.

For several weekends now, I’ve spent some time birding and this year I saw quite a few migrants. Unfortunately, birding in Southern Indiana tends to include lots of fully leafed out trees and lots of time waiting for a little bird to make a quick appearance from behind a mass of greenery.

I started looking for birds at Wesselman Woods, a nature preserve located in the heart of the city. It’s full of huge, old trees.

P1100107

P1100079

paw paw

I saw warblers, gnatcatchers, thrushes, white throated sparrows, Baltimore orioles, and a sandpiper. After a couple days at Wesselman Woods, John came with me to try another spot: Eagle Slough. I liked it even better. There, I saw lot of warblers, summer tanagers, indigo buntings, rose breasted grosbeaks, more thrushes, and a wild turkey.

I’ve also had some fun bird sightings in my own back yard. I’ve had male and female rose breasted grosbeaks at my feeder, white crowned, white breasted sparrows, an ovenbird, and a thrush scratching around the ground. I’ve had prothonotary warblers and Philadelphia vireos in the line of trees next door. and a hummingbird who was checking to see if our neighbor’s Rose of Sharon trees were blooming. Not bad for sticking my head out the back door between cups of coffee.

Last weekend I took the trip up to the Azalea Path Arboretum and Botanical Gardens. I’ve heard a lot about it and I’m glad to have finally seen it. The azaleas were just starting to hit their peak, the peonies were also gorgeous, and it was a beautiful day. I only regret that I was a little rushed, fitting the trip in between a couple other things I was doing that day.

 

 

The Virtual Garden Tour

I would love to have you all over to show you my garden. Since I can’t do that, here is a tour in photos.

The month of May is generally so kind to my garden. The beginning of June is, as well. Then nature turns up the heat and things get tired and crispy.

In May, it’s bloom after bloom. When one kind of plant stops, another begins.

I’ve got irises of all sorts (enough different sorts to stretch the blooming for weeks)…

creamsicle

reticulated iris

happy iris

IMG_1245

purple bearded iris

celebratory iris

And the wonderful baptisia…

baptisia

Blackberry…

blackberry

Peony…

peony

And now, honeysuckle. The air in the back yard is heavy with the scent, even with part of the honeysuckle wall cut back. Too bad I’ve got a cold and can’t fully appreciate it.

honeysuckle

With my new camera, I can get better panoramic views of the garden. It helps to (maybe) show how small the space is. Here is the back yard from the west:

view from the west

And now the same space but from the east:

view from the eastIn all my planting, I’ve also added more to the little rock garden I built last year. I added some begonias and other annuals and more sedums. It’s a real mix of things, so I guess I’ll just see what survives and add more of it next year. For now, I kind of like the way it looks:

rock garden

fern and begonia

begonia

Also around my garden:

little bug