Monday, July 21, 2008

Web Walk

It is early morning and we are going out the back door to have a walkabout the garden, as we try and do every single day. We have had some rain recently so says the dragonfly's flagon. Good deal. That means the plants should be pert and perky. Off we go!
Turning left to go up the stone steps to see what's happening in the veggie garden we come upon this bit of filament where the gravel path meets the block wall. Oh goody, misty moistiness. The camera is at the ready, for we may get to see some interesting things on this foggy morning.

Looking up at the arborvitae hedge that lines the back of the veggie patch, we see some filmy weavings. The evergreens are always a good spot to find such things when the wetness catches on the nearly invisible threads. Let's continue down the hedge to see what else will show itself to us.

On the tomatoes, with the arborvitae behind, someone has been a busy spider. You have created a vision of beauty Ms. Arachnid. Very geometrical.

Still at the tomato row, this masterpiece reminds us of a lacy collar on a victorian dress.

Down in the area we call the flat garden where the old gravel driveway of the house next door used to end, more of a parking lot really, the blue Atlas Cedar holds the spinnings of a free style artist. There may be a pattern here, but it is not readily apparent. Good job though, we applaud the effort.

Now what's this? It certainly has a web look to it doesn't it? This is a large fan covering that was found laying out for the trash pick up. It got picked up allright, and just fit inside the diamond at the end of the arbor built by our Gardoctor. It may get painted someday, or not. The foggy background gives it a sense of mystery. Was this the work of a large spider with access to a welding machine?

I hope this one shows up, you may have to click on it to see the web covering the entire breadth of the pond. These master builders must be able to jump great lengths to get started on one of this size. We are still waiting for the first waterlily flower, this area has gotten more shady through the years and may not let enough sun in for flower production. The leaves are still lovely though and echo the shape of the glass fisherman floats.

Walking around to the front to get the morning paper we notice this work of art on the weeping blue atlas cedar. In the distance is the row of Knockout roses that line neighbors Mae and Mickey's white fence. Hi there neighbors!

Up near the front door on the post that used to hold dearly departed rose Killer, now home to a Carolina Jessamine, yet more webbing is spotted. Everywhere we look are more webs. Are they always there and we just don't see them on sunny dry days?

There were several webs with the large opening at the bottom as you can see here, I hope. I have never noticed before that type of spinning, with the egg shaped open space. Interesting. The coloring on the fading iris leaf has always attracted me. I have woven baskets out of this strong material, braiding it first for more uniform thickness. I'm afraid my basket making days are coming to an end however, for my hands lack the strength necessary to pull the weavers tight anymore. Adjustments will have to be made in the weaving process for that lack. Anyway, I have made a lifetime supply of baskets, sold some, given more away and have the rest hanging on the rafters in the garage loft space. Storage has been a problem for the larger ones, hanging is the best solution. They look pretty, but really attract the spider webs!

We got off track there a little, please forgive me. Back to the web walk, I think this one is on a butterfly bush. The gold chamaecyparis is in the background.

We have always called this type of web as belonging to the writer spider, also called a wolf spider. This one is in the rosemary topiary forest and the weaver is small, now. We have seen very large black and yellow spiders weave this same form of web. I hope this one doesn't get that large, or he will have to be removed.

Drat, this photo taken in the black garden doesn't show the web well with the Summer Wine ninebark. But look just past at that spot of bright pink! The new lily is beginning to bloom. Hooray!

Loaded with buds is this species lily, new this year, Black Beauty. Once again, there is nothing black about it, but it still is worthy of a spot in the black garden. Look at those luscious blooms.

Maybe the black refers to the stamens, for they are very dark. Not would I would call black, but maybe they darken with age. Well that winds up our web walk for today. Foggy wet mornings show us art in the garden that is normally not visible, although in the mornings sometimes we feel a thread across the face and know that we have interrupted the work of our friendly spiders, just doing their job. We cooexist with them, knowing some are dangerous. There is a place for all here, as was meant to be.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Little Whimsy In The Garden

Our story opens in the maternity ward under the deck at Faire Garden General. Mister and Missus Bongo Congo are beyond excited, for her sand has broken. A little even splashed up onto her cheek. Mister looks a little worried, but she assures him that everything will be okay.
Let's go back in time a bit to last year. Heathcliff Bongo Congo came to Tennessee from a colder clime. He was a wild and wooly fellow with bark like skin and a hole in his mouth for a future job working with water. He found a spot in the heaths and heathers that felt like home to him.
The demure lady Catherine was from a hot, dry windy place and felt comfortable up in the knot garden among the thyme.
She was happy, but felt something was missing in her life. She would daydream of having adventures with daring and romance.
Chance would have it that these two would meet while working at their summer jobs picking berries in the food patch. They would both sneak the best looking fruit into their mouths while no one was looking. They caught sight of one another and laughed with embarrassment. But there was something else in that nervous laughter.
Chemistry drew them to each other, it was undeniable.
They began traveling around, having found that they both shared the same interests, including mythology.
Finally she took him home to meet her parent, a hypertufa trough rimmed with colored marbles. Bongo Congo was terrified of not being accepted by the civilized pater/mater. The composition of our lady and planter included peat moss and perlite with the sand-cement mix that had formed Bongo Congo. How could he ever convince him/her that he was worthy of the most exquisite creature he had ever known?
He took her to meet his own family, the bowl made from leaf casting material, his brother, Itchy. She was shy and turned away, feeling out of place also. Bongo Congo and Itchy were a pair, the bowl made to catch the water that cascaded from the spout of BC's mouth. How could she come between them?
True love prevailed once again. They eloped and went to the rocky shore for their honeymoon. They had always been big fans of the movie "From Here To Eternity" with Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster.
More recently they participated in the midsummer night's festivities with the crowd of fairies that traveled here for that big event. That was a special night and the result surprised them both, for she learned that another was to join the family they had created together.
Serving as midwife, I helped Cathy do what nature had intended. The offspring is still wet behind the ears in this shot right after birth but smiling and happy about the whole thing. What a joy she will be to her doting parents.
She is seen here in the nursery with other new additions to the garden, cotinus leaves and an eight ball squash leaf casting. They all need to set and harden before they can venture out.
The happy family together here for their official portrait. It was rumored that People magazine had offered millions for the rights to this photo. But the Bongo Congos have no need for either riches or notoriety and wish to live a simple, natural life, sans paparazzi. We will honor that wish. May we introduce to you Whimsy Bongo Congo.
We wish to thank Nan Ondra at Gardening Gone Wild for this month's topic of
Garden Blogger Design Workshop, Whimsy in the garden. It was an honor for her to choose a topic named for our new little resident. Thanks, Nan.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

July Bloom Day 2008-A Wide Variety

As we were assembling this month's bloom day photos for the flower extravaganza sponsored by super blogger Carol at
May Dreams Gardens, it was noticed that the flowers open now are as wide a range of types as any other time during the year. You will see what I am talking about in this post. Most of the orchids we grow bloom during the winter months, that is the object of having them, exotic flowers in the greenhouse/sunroom during those dreary days. But here is Paphiopedilum Honey 'Newberry' x Paph. primulinus 'Lemon Glow', with even more buds showing for future flowers in the dog days of summer. The Old Farmer's Almanac lists the traditional timing of the Dog Days as the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the ancient heliacal (at sunrise) rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. There is a growing bud on another of the paphs as well, hooray!
This vanda alliance hybrid usually give us three blooms a year.
More seasonal is this coneflower, echinacea 'Sundown'.
We couldn't resist E. 'Coconut Lime'.
E. 'Harvest Moon' has been a good performer also.
Roses grown here include old fashioned or antique roses such as this R. 'Grootendorst Supreme', we have nicknamed this one Thorny. Even the leaves have sharp spikes.
Rosa' Ferdinand Pitchard' is unscathed by the Japanese beetles so far, thanks to Jersey and her milk jug of soapy water.
Dahlias have been known to winter over here, so we like to give them a try. This is a brand new one, no cultivar name. Lowe's refers to it as *annual dahlia*, we hope for this to be perennial dahlia instead. It could happen. For those of you sensitive souls who have an aversion to red and yellow, what do you think of the addition of the orange from our little friend the Pearl Crescent?
We have had luck overwintering the seed started D. 'Bishop's Children', when we don't try and move them mid season that is. I like the washed out color on this one. The dark leaves earned it a place in the black garden, surrounded by taller shrubs to help protect it against the ravages of winter.
Another annual one with iridescence to the petals. I'll let you know next spring if these made it or not.
Searching for the truest blue of the eryngiums, this flower and stem seemed the darkest hued.
Followed by this one.
Here is the whole plant, showing many blossoms of varying shades of steely blue next to it's new best friend, Helenium 'Mardi Gras'.
The blue balloon flower, platycodon, a passalong from neighbors Mae and Mickey offers cool color during the hot days.
We love the white one too, with it's blue veining.
Monarda 'Blue Stockings' is visited by butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.
As is the red M. 'Jacob Kline'.
The first flower opened of the rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm' group. This little bee wants some pollen, but the actual flowers in the center don't appear to be open for business just yet. Or maybe those at the outer edge are available for the early diners. The brown plate special.
The white phlox paniculata 'David' is enjoying it's new home in the white/yellow garden. Blooming next to it is rudbeckia hirta, the annual gloriosa daisy. In the background is echinacea 'Harvest Moon'.
The old fashioned no name phlox paniculata from Mae and Mickey is very tall and mixes well with the other bright colors of the summer garden. Paniculata means tall when it is seen in the latin name of a plant.
This morning glory snuck by me and bloomed in the pyracantha bushes. We are overrun with all colors of these as they carpeted the top of the hill when we bought this property. Many years of seeds are buried in that soil, and germinate everywhere. We try and catch them all now, but mistakenly let them bloom in the beginning when there was lots of open garden space to fill. The flowers are admittedly lovely, but too many seeds!
Another plant that came with the property is this prunella vulgaris, self heal is one of the common names. According to some laboratory studies, prunella has many potential benefits, including anti-microbial, anti-viral, and anti-oxidant properties. It is an evergreen rosette in the winter and flowers mid summer with these charming little blue trumpets. At twelve inches tall it fits in nicely with the penstemons in the old gravel driveway of the house next door that was torn down to build our garage. A volunteer purple perilla lends dark mystery to the vignette.
The first zinnia of the year, one of the self sown. The butterflies and hummers are mad for these flowers. We sowed many packages of seeds this spring, too soon, and they all rotted in the too cool soil. We bought more and those are up but not flowering yet.
On the new arbor minus the climbing rose Killer, the crossvine, Bignonia 'Tangerine Beauty' is happily winding its way across the top.
Tiny purple flowers of moss verbena stand out against the dark leaves of groundcover ajuga reptans. Growing in the concrete swan planters is a tough task, the pot portion is small, letting the moisture dry out very quickly. The verbena is well suited to the dryness, a native of the south, we grew it in our Houston garden. It shall be seen if it can overwinter here.
The southern standby crepe myrtle is opening. We have several cultivars here and there, this one is Zuni, two stand sentinel at each end of the center curb planting.
A pink oriental lily, name unknown, as it was a free gift from Wayside last year with the purchase of some viburnums. A package of three, two are this light pink and one was Stargazer. That was a pretty good freebie.
Liatris spicata in the yellow/white bed. It was supposed to be white.
Seeds from Semi of the annual scabiosa atropurpurea produce red, purple and near black flowering plants. They are in the black garden and give candy colored accent to the dark foliage.
Blackberry lily, belamcanda chinensis, with hornet attached was given as seed by friend Laurie years ago. We have faithfully saved the seeds and planted them in this bed by the shed where the eryngium, helenium and stipa call home, trying for a mass planting some day.
Nastursium 'Alaska' seeds were sown in the blue strawberry jar in the driveway.
The leaves are the thing here, the flowers are a bonus.
Also from seed, new to us this year is cerinthe purpurescens. While not as purple as the photo on the seed packet, we are liking them so far. In the background the Japanese blood grass is showing good color. This grass is planted along the forty foot wall behind the main house as a common thread, along with scores of other plants. I love the look of the sun backlighting the red blades.
The wall is just at chest height for me to walk along and pull weeds and tend the flowers growing along it. The containers are all here also to soften the look of the block and are within easy reach of the hose spigot to keep their thirsts quenched. This is micro gardening at its best. I can pull a stray weed, pinch a spent bloom and admire the growth without getting dirty or working up a sweat. Lining the path is a sea of purple perilla. They are very close to being pulled for they have grown too tall and will get much taller, about four feet. I don't like to wade through that much foliage to get to the wall and the deck. A few will be left but they should not be allowed to flower. I say that every year, that is why we have what you see above now. This year I mean it. No flowering.
This is the segment of flowers coming to the end of their season. The larkspur was the best ever this year, planted in the veggie garden at the same time as the sugar snap peas. We are allowing the seed heads to form for next year's sowing. We cannot grow delphiniums here, but these relatives offer that same true blue color.
The last two flowers of crocosmia 'Lucifer' look striking against the foliage of ninebark 'Summer Wine', Physocarpus opulifolious 'Summer Wine', in the black garden. There are seed heads forming, what should be done with them? Does anyone know when to sow them? Just let them drop to the ground, or harvest and save them for special treatment?
Another last bloom, this one of nigella. Most of these have been pulled to keep from having them engulf the entire yard. We still love that blue though.
Dianthus 'Firewitch' sends out sporadic lone flowers long after the big spring show. They too are welcome now.
But the strangest of all is the new flowers blooming on the hellebore. It must be the extra watering that this area has been given, where the hydrangeas now live, around ferngully. It is disconcerting to see these February flowers blooming now.
Even more jarring is seeing these pansies blooming. The plant as a whole looks terrible, but these individual flowers are welcome.
A little tattered but still our Maureen.
Miss Charlotte is still a looker.
Proof of the true season, the Autumn Joy sedum is going from broccoli to pink powderpuff stage. Backed by Blue Star junipers with some wayward Japanese painted fern peeking up, these flowers mean fall is coming. They even have Autumn in the name.

There has been rain here over the last few days. It comes in brief cloud bursts accompanied by thunder and lightning. These storms have added over three inches of water to the gardens and it is much welcomed by the plants and gardener alike. Keep it comin'.