Sunday, December 31, 2006

Beneficial Insects and Native Plants.

I found a great research project website at the University of Michigan. It is about enhancing biological predator controls in gardens and on farms using native plants. It started in 2002 and has results for 2005. There are graphs showing numbers of insects found on the plants at peak flowering time. The plants are named including some exotics and there is a grass control area.
Beneficial insect pages give information. Plant pages give pictures and graphs.This is of course of interest mainly to midwestern growers, but I think give a good idea of how natives to an area can be of benefit.

Spend some time going through the pages it is very interesting.

we wanted to determine if a succession of flowering species could be found that provide pollen and nectar resources over much of the growing season. We selected 43 native Michigan plants based on their reported bloom period and ability to survive in agricultural habitats. All of the species selected historically grew in prairie or savanna habitats (scattered trees with an understory of prairie species). These habitats have been largely replaced by agriculture in Michigan and share similar soil, climatic, and structural conditions as field and orchard/vineyard crops.

What do "small," "medium" and "large" numbers mean? They refer to how many insects were collected per meter square in a 30 second sample. Small means less than 2 insects; medium indicates 2 to 10 insects, and large suggests greater than 10 insects.

About project...

Plant list...

Yellow coneflower
Ratibida pinnata

Grows in moist to slightly dry black soil prairies, clay prairies, thickets, woodland borders, limestone glades, and areas along railroads, particularly where remnant prairies occur. Yellow Coneflower tends to colonize the more disturbed areas of these habitats

It tends to grow rather tall and flop in gardens unless cut back a couple of times in early summer. I have not yet had to perform this duty as the rabbits and their young do an admirable job of munching the tender new growth to various heights. Then seem to move on in time for the flowers to form and flower. Later in the season if a storm makes ratty looking just clip most away leaving a few that look good still for late flowers and seeds. It will return.

I have a spot where the yellow cone flowers have been mixed in amid the tall straight grass and tall large flowered sunflowers. In another place they are mixed with liatris and asters.
The bloom period is very long allowing a mix with several other plants over the summer and early fall. The flowers sway on long delicate stems in each passing breeze. An interesting sight even before the flowers open full as the native bees will hang on sipping oozing nectar already drawing pollinators. The bees are so tame while so engaged that I have often picked the bees up and held them. The little yellow faced native bees are most often found in this state.

Other bees, include Epeoline Cuckoo bees, large Leaf-Cutting bees, Green Metallic bees, and other Halictine bees.
Other insect visitors include wasps, flies, small butterflies, and beetles.
The bees also collect pollen and some beetles feed on pollen. The caterpillars of the butterfly Chlosyne nycteis (Silvery Checkerspot) feeds on the foliage, as well as the caterpillars of the moths Eynchlora acida (Wavy-Lined Emerald) and Eupithecia miserulata (Common Eupithecia).
Gold Finches occasionally eat the seeds, rabbits, groundhogs and livestock will eat foliage and flowering stems.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

'My Favorite Plant' writers and gardeners on the plants they love.
Jamaica kincaid

December's Garden Book Club Choice

One of my least favorite plants is Delphiniums.It is one of those irrational dislikes born of preconceived ideas and developed prejudices that occur when one simply can not like everything.It just sounds way to Pollyanna don't you think, to like everything I mean.So prejudging plants that need staking, perennials that are short lived and nursing a general dislike of ruffles there was no chance of getting to know this entire group, personally. And so I read this piece with interest.
I have never read any of Karl Foerster's work. Thomas Fisher's praise has me looking for translated to English volumes. His writing is discribed (by Fisher) as quasi-mystical and High Rhapsodic, an almost religious invocation of the color blue as an all pervading cosmic energy.Even the names of his books draw one to read.Well, me anyway...

Delphiniums from Thomas Fisher
excerpt...And yet my early attemps with them (Delphiniums) were disastrous. The Pacific Giants,which are the only Delphiniums widely available in the United States, behaved like spoiled, sickly aristocrats. They sulked. They mildewed. They demanded to be trussed up. They languished in the July heat. When they died usually after only a single season, I was secretly glad.

At first I thought my slovenly gardening skills were to blame. But then an afternoon spent with some old issues of the bulletin of the American Delphinium Society turned up some interesting facts.

As many delphinium fanciers know, the Pacific Giants were developed by Frank Reinelt, a Czech gardener who emigrated to the United States in 1925 and soon thereafter helped found the firm of Vetterle & Reinelt in Capitola, California. What is not so well known is that Reinelt used the short lived, red flowered American species Delphinium cardinale in his breeding program, both to produce pink-flowered hybrids and to intensify the color of his blues, which he found "rather cold" without the D. cardinale genetic admixture but "brillant,alive, and warm" with it.
The fact that his Pacific Giants also tended to behave like annuals bothered him not at all. In 1944 he wrote: "Here [in the U.S.] hardly any plant lives longer than two years...True perennialism is not as important as the color, size of spike,and habit."

The legacy of this rather airy dismissal has been generations of frustrated, delphinium-phobic gardeners.

Here, here....

Of course he goes on to praise Delphiniums developed by Karl Foerster.

another excerpt...
In his book (The Garden As A Magic Key ), Foerster wrote: "In every zone of the world and every month of the year, somewhere or other the blue fire is blooming forth."
If he's watching, up there in some delphinium-blue gardener's Valhalla, I hope he knows I'm keeping the flame burning

Monday, December 25, 2006


May you have moments of Peace and Happiness.

Today at
Garden Rant Guess Who is the guest writer? If you find the time to check it out in the next few days please let me know... Gloria

Friday, December 15, 2006

December's Garden Book Club


"Pretty they are not,but a garden can labor under a surfeit of prettiness,be too sweet or cheerful for its own good."

This book 'My Favorite Plant' is said in the introduction to be a garden like the author would create. Beautiful flowers, exotic plants,comforting memories, sweet dreams and harsh reality.
Enclosed in a book that resembles a diary or journal.

Every garden has a dark side, this one of words no exception.
Michael Pollan talks about castor bean being the slightly evil twin of sunflowers.
"The sunflowers seed tasty and nourishing,the castor bean poisonous.
The sunflower open and familar the castor flower dark and of a sinister beauty."

In Marigold even the beauty is abandoned while confusion and ugly reality hide behind the commonness.

This can be natures way.
A fuzzy baby rabbit is often caught and ripped to bloody shreds for a bird of preys dinner.
A rose carries weapons,bees sting,disease smells bad and is ugly,rats are wildlife.
The gardener often uses herbicides and pesticides with labels that must carry warnings of possible dangers.
We to have our darkness.

Of course the book only briefly touches on this idea.
For as gardeners we accept that the garden is a living system. There is work and adversity.Not every day is happy or easy.
As with our family,our pets, our lives the caring and enjoyment of a garden is deepened by the complex nature of our interaction.

'My Favorite Plant' took me by suprise. I was thinking cotton candy and received dark chocolate.
Never judge a book before its read...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Eryngium yuccifolium
Rattlesnake Master

I plan on reading the December selection for the Gardener's Book Club but thought I would also give a personal answer to the query.

While Rattlesnake Master might not seem much of a choice when seen alone, its merits become apparent when seen amid other plants.

In spring the yucca shaped leaves bring strength and structure to the emerging foliage of ornamental grass and blooming wildflowers like the baptisia,zizia,amsonia,lithrum,allium,and prairie dropseed pictured.

In full sun Eryngium yuccifolium grows tall and flowers stand high giving easy access to nectar and pollen for long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, skippers, moths, beetles, and plant bugs.

The groups of darkened golf ball shaped seed heads and thick stems against dried grass, snow and winter skies carry the drama through fall into winter.

An abundant self seeder Rattlesnake master's many seedlings perish without ample sunlight beneath the heavy meadow like or natural style planting rarely dominating. In garden beds the many seedlings are easily removed with a hoe or hand cultivator.

Rattlesnake master is a large dramatic plant that demands attention. People stop and ask about this plant, curious as to why one would grow such a thing. I tell them it is a welcome flag for the pollinators and I am a sucker for good theater.

Garden Book Club

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Fireflies are wonderful mystical creatures. Creating light within their own bodies. Flashing for a mate or to warn predators away they twinkle and sparkle through the dusk on warm summer nights.Children love to chase them. Adults sit and watch the show as fascinated as the kids. At least this is so around here.

We live and garden in Chicago. As a perk of habitat gardening our firefly population has increased each summer. I have looked into why this might be so.

First I have eliminated much lawn. Large areas of the garden have spaces of soil between the plantings which is covered only with decaying organic matter.
Wood piles and stumps are placed here and there to decompose. Abundant leaf mold and much compost is incorporated into shrub and woodland edge type planting areas. Most dormant plants are left intact for the winter and cut back only in spring.

We do not use any pesticides,herbicides or chemical fertilizers.
Most areas are dug once to prepare for planting then left undisturbed.

Mulches, low ground covers, shrubby areas creating shaded ground, lush overall greenery and a small pond increase the moisture and humidity levels.

Interesting info found about the beetle Lampyridae-commonly- Firefly...lightning bug...glow worm.

The fireflies pay rent for reproductive space in gardens with service rendered. The larvae eat slugs and snails. Is that cool or what? They can follow a slug slime trail and inject an anesthetic which immobilizes dinner. Several larvae may work together to incapacitate larger prey.
Adult fireflies especially females (they produce little of the chemical that lights up and may need to ingest it from males) are suspected of eating other species of firefly on occasion but overall energy is acquired from nectar sources.
Actually the entertainment value alone would assure them space in our garden.

On several sites there were places to report firefly sightings. What a great idea. I think come warm weather again, I will report the first sighting and ask others to chime in.

In Japan where fireflies lay eggs in low water rather than moist soil, raising fireflies is in vogue. They have celebrations when emerging starts. Japanese are always good for ideas to party.
genji firefly

Light bulbs expend 90% of energy as heat with only 10% as light.
A firefly lights up without wasting energy and produces no heat.
Many deep sea creatures use the same light producing body chemicals.

One other interesting finding, the grandchildren were watching some silly show on tv where home movies are sent in. Someone fed many fireflies to a frog then recorded the flashing frog, gross...

Search google for[ fireflies ] or [beetle Lampyridae]

Firefly Facts...

Mark Branham's firefly graphic

Friday, December 01, 2006

To rake or not rake? That seems to be the question.
Whether to leave natures gift untouched or aid in dispersal.
What to do?
Do the leaves left untended really smother the grass?
Is mulch mowing enough?
Are curling drying leaves attractive as mulch?

I tried to address this question at Garden Rant but was unable to post a comment for reasons unknown. So since this blog could use an entry...

Hello Susan,
Many of the gardens on our street have only needle type evergreens. Oh yes and lots of lawn. Easy maintainance, monotonous,time consuming but simple care. Rake the leaves in autumn add a few flowers (maybe) in spring. You have your basic urban garden look.Pretty much the same year round unless it snows.

There are 4 distinct seasons in the Chicago area where I garden.
Contrary to popular belief, leaves will not kill your lawn. I know this from personal experience.Just running the mower over the leaves breaks them up enough, along with the grass clippings, to help the breakdown along.
The leaves that are collected(often from others curbside)and added to the planting areas,surround any perennials that do not die back to mush. While these leaves are still there in early spring it seems to me that the leaf mulch way to quickly disappear as the days lengthen and the temperatures warm.
As for the leaves blowing away, the standing stems and ground covers keep the wind from blowing all away.Not so on the lawn. If we are not quick enough to mow after leaf fall, all leaves blow down the street and gather at the house with all the great deciduous trees and shrubs.

I like the look of curling drying leaves about my garden. Even in the groundcovers.
From the pictures you have posted your garden is wonderful and you seem an experienced gardener that knows what she wants. This is not to say that you are wrong. Only that for this garden there is another answer... sincerely Gloria

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Eastern Red Cedar /Juniperus virginiana

A native evergreen that supplies food,nesting and winter shelter for birds and other wildlife.
I never really thought about it before but it seems the blue aromatic berries are actually cones
which only grow on the female.
Said cones are eaten by red squirrels, cedar waxwings, yellow rumped warblers and robins.
The Eastern Red Cedar is also host for the Olive hairstreak.

This is a large Eastern Red cedar growing way too close to our house. This year it has lots of the blue nice smelling berry/cones that make wonderful additions to a gathering of evergreen boughs for Christmas. I do not want to cut this tree down. It will take years to get a young replacement to form cones. Darn those foolish ones that did not know how large a Juniper virginiana may someday grow. Even just a few feet futher out and we could live with it. Now it has green only on the side facing away from the building. What to do...?

Read this mystery of the disappearing bark...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

'The Essential Earthman' Henry Mitchell

"It's important, isn't it, to think of the garden as a wonderful place to be, "

" While we have sense enough not to expect the impossible, we have a right to expect the magical."

To gardeners these words ring true.
Henry Mitchell tapped into the psyche of the average backyard gardener
working on their own wonders.
He understood that it was not so much advise that was needed but an understanding of the experience itself.
How one feels while digging in the dirt, making plans,watching the garden grow.

We say yes and nod, when the storms beat his prize flowers, for we have been there.
We say "oh yeah" when he buys the sculpture after disdaining all such.
We know his joy at beauty he lent a hand.

For what gardener has not risen at dawn to see the morning light and sat out at dusk watching fireflies or listening to the robins sing goodnight.
We marvel at the tips of growth in spring, the texture and size of leaves,the bright blue of the sky.
The magic in the garden delights us, it is such a wonderful place to be...

Garden Blogger's Book Club at May Dreams Garden

Monday, November 13, 2006

Why grow natives?

Why Not!!!

Why grow any plant that is suited to the place it will grow and your reason for growing?

I can only address how and why plants are used in my own garden.
When deciding what would be planted the Mr and I talked about what purpose the garden would serve in our lives.
First we would like to grow some food for ourselves. Then we would like a space full of growing plants and as much wildlife as our small urban space could accomadate.
Each choice could be looked at to accomplish this.

While looking into plant choices for sustaining a wildlife population we found that many times native species would be the best choice. One reason for this is that the wildlife and the plant life evolved over time together. Human interference while complex is still fairly recent in world history.
Problems of disturbance to habitat can not be completely overcome but can be looked at the same way any natural disturbance would be dealt with. Floods, storms, fire happen, flora and fauna recover. Populations explode , crash, recover. It is the way of the intricate web called life on earth.

We learned to evaluate the climate, the soil and the species of wildlife that could or should be found in this area. We also learned that food and water are only part of the picture. A habitat that supports reproduction and provides protection during the changing seasons and life cycles of wildlife must be part of the picture to be successful to our purpose.

And so native species of plants became a valuble resource. Whenever choosing even food plants for ourselves this criteria is taken into account. Berries and nuts ,prairie roses that produce hips,
greens to flavor salads, herbs with which to cook,foods that we enjoy and serve a double purpose.

I'm not saying this is the route for everyone or that it is the only answer. But it is another successful way to look at the garden.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Essential Earthman "Minor" Bulbs_Major Joys

Naples cyclamen-Mitchell speaks of growing cyclamen outdoors
overwintering with such nice fresh leaves.
Intrigued I googled up [Naples cyclamen] .
Came up with this...
In Europe, one finds in a state wild the Cyclamen europaeum,
characteristic of the flora of the alpine valleys,
and the cyclamen of Naples (Cyclamen hederifolium).

Be thankful for Latin Names. And the internet.

Apparently C. hederifolium is quite hardy even to -19 degrees F.
Mitchell states that an older corm spreads and fattens and can
produce a hundred flowers. With 50 corms in a few years he had quite a showing.
He does not say how many years.

I would never have imagined that I might possibly grow cyclamen here in zone 5,
out in the garden.
I do not trust that the leaves would do well for very late into this cold harsh winter.
Mitchell lived in a rather mild climate in Washington compared to more northerly
states. But even so if it would do as the hellebore,berginia, or heuchera and look nice until the winter finally covers in snow or bedraggles, then it might be worth the effort.

Does anyone grow this plant out in the garden?

Garden Blogger's Book Club May Dreams Garden

Friday, November 03, 2006

On Keeping garden records
While I am sure there are many good reasons to go about keeping garden records, I am just as sure that I will never do so.
I do have lists. And stacks of plant tags. More pictures than could possibly be necessary. Scribbled notes on odd bits of paper and saved seed packages. Some empty,some bent over and closed with a paper clip to keep the few remaining seeds inside. Some were never opened, still full of outdated seeds saved for no apparent reason .
A history so to speak.

As for the garden records those such as Henry Mitchell, Thomas Jefferson and other gardeners of note would advocate, I have not that sort of discipline.
It is just as well. I do not need to know the dates when the daffodil bloomed past years to trust that they will bloom again. I know without doubt when there is not enough or too much rain "this year". If a plant is lost and forgotten in the confusion, some other will take its place.
Each day when I step out into the garden to go about the days task, I am thankful for the moment. I leave each that comes after to do the same.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Green and grey,red and gold, light and shadow, the changes in the garden brought on by lower light levels and cooler temperatures lure us out to admire nature's artistic hand. Close to the earth enjoying soil warmer than the air and radiated heat from stones and pathways many plants take advantage of micro-climates created by lush planting and hardscape.
Dried flowers and seedheads create movement in light, depth in shadow.

Combinations overlooked in summer suddenly stand out.

The cool green backdrop for summer becomes autumns heat...

Researching a pollinator habitat.

Librarians are trained to help you find resources. Those at my local library are well worth their taxpayer dollars. Also our community has an online library catalog from which to order books that are then sent to the library where I am registered.
I read 'Noah's Garden" by Sara B Stein
'The Forgotten Pollinators"by Stephen Buchmann,
and several books by
Sally and Andy Wasowski including 'Requiem for a Lawnmower'
While Sally Wasowski is an advocate for the use of native plants she states that you should enjoy the rich diversity that native plants have to offer, but when you have non-native plants that do well in your area, by all means use and enjoy them too.

Without the help of the librarian it would have taken ages to learn about the book that has had the most influence on my gardening style.
'The One-Straw Revolution' by Masanobu Fukuoka,
the Japanese farmer that spawned the interest in sustainable land use.

The internet has been an invaluble resource. So much data is available online, I use reliable sources such as universities and government agencies like Fish and wildlife, The Department of Agriculture, etc. Not only do they link you to their own work but also to current work of other reliable studies in the field.

You can google up a lot by searching for native bee habitat...

If you are interested here are a few sites to get you started.

Predicting Habitat Size Needed for Pollination Services
January-March 2005 (Vol. 6, No. 1)

Planning your wildlife habitat
Attracting bees
In the United States, there are nearly 5,000 different species of native bees. Most of them are solitary, friendly bees that nest in holes in the ground or burrows in twigs and dead tree limbs.
These bees do not have hives to protect them, so they are not aggressive and rarely sting.
Bumblebees, carpenter bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, digger bees, and others pollinate many different kinds of plants. They play a critical role in healthy wild plant communities and gardens. About 30 percent of our diet is the direct result of a pollinating visit by a bee to a flowering fruit tree or vegetable plant.
Providing bee habitat in your yard can increase the quality and quantity of your fruits and vegetables.
Bees are extremely sensitive to many commonly applied insecticides

What's the Buzz on....Planting a Bee Garden by Stephen Buchmann of The Forgotten Pollinators Campaign
Apart from bountiful flowers, all bees require places to hide from predators, to locate and court a mate, and establish their nests. Thus, they need you to help provide safe havens from predators, parasites and chemical insecticides.

Guidelines for Providing Native Bee Habitat on Farms.

Wild bees make honey bees better pollinators
By Liese Greensfelder, Media Relations 28 August 2006

Bee Powerline Habitats: Making Habitat Out of Junk Land
We would prefer the method that is less invasive, in the sense that they're just cutting down the tall species and topping the vegetation and using selective herbicides."
Dr. Russell says that this kind of management practice creates a unique sort of habitat. Instead of a grassland, you get an area of low-lying shrubs, vines and flowers, where the vegetation stays under six feet tall. In studies, she found that bee populations liked making their nests in this "scrubby" habitat.

Though written in 2001, the following excerpt from Ecology and Society, still holds much of interest.
The studies to which it links and the conclusion that futher study was needed, has been heeded.

Check out
Status of Pollinators in North AmericaNew report by the National Academy of Sciences, sponsored by the USDA-ARS and the USGS On October 18, 2006, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released their report on the Status of Pollinators in North America. Status of Pollinators in North America

From ecology and society....
Habitat Fragmentation and Native Bees: a Premature Verdict?
James H. Cane

Habitat for any species of bee must minimally consist of rewarding patches of floral resources plus suitable nesting sites, all within flight range of each other. The suitability of floral resources varies with species. All bee species have broadly catholic tastes for nectar, but many nonsocial species have fixed species-specific predilections or even requirements for pollen from a few particular related genera of floral hosts; this phenomenon, known as "oligolecty," was most recently reviewed by Wcislo and Cane (1996). For these species, adult emergence must coincide with host bloom on a seasonal and annual basis, or the species must be able to switch floral hosts. Multivoltine or long-lived bee species (or their colonies) have a different problem: their foraging seasons typically outlast the blooming period of any one host. Consequently, within the radius of flight range from their nest sites, there must exist patches of various floral species that bloom at different times of the year.
Suitable nesting substrates for bees vary with species, and may include holes of appropriate diameter left by wood-boring beetles, tree cavities, pithy or hollow plant stems of the correct diameter, abandoned rodent burrows, or soils of suitable texture, depth, slope, vegetation cover, and moisture. Additional resources needed by some bee species for nesting include nearby mud, resins, pebbles, or plant hairs, which they use to line, partition, and plug their nests (O'Toole and Raw 1991).
What is "fragmentation" from the perspective of an invertebrate pollinator? Fragmentation describes a patchy distribution of suitable habitats, sometimes thought of as "ecological islands," surrounded by a matrix of inhospitable or inadequate habitats of varying permeability (T. H. Ricketts, unpublished manuscript). Fragmentation means more than the mere existence of isolated or patchy habitats; it also implies that a more continuous habitat has been subdivided or broken up by some (often anthropogenic) process, with the attendant loss of intervening habitat. The distributions and population dynamics of bee species in naturally patchy habitats (e.g., bumble bees in alpine meadows) can yield insights into some, but not all, of the factors associated with habitat fragmentation (Bowers 1985). Naturally patchy distributions are the norm for wildflowers, shrubs, and trees. By viewing fragments as reserves, such studies turn our notion of habitat fragmentation on its head and may generate data and practical insights of "critical importance for pollinator conservation".
In many regions of the world, the opportunities to set aside massive reserves are limited, impractical, or already past, requiring us to either think small or else give up hope (Shafer 1995, Abensperg-Traun and Smith 1999).
There is growing evidence that substantial fractions of native bee communities can persist in habitats that have been modestly, sometimes even drastically, altered by human activities (Reed 1995, Marlin and LaBerge 2001 (Reed 1995, Marlin and LaBerge 2001, Williams et al. 2001).
What is the minimal floral carrying capacity for such bee communities, and how resilient are they in the face of annually fluctuating floral resources (Roubik 2001)?
What is the rate and degree, if any, of genetic impoverishment in such isolated populations when immigration and genetic drift cease (Packer and Owen 2001)?
Can recolonization potential be derived from spatial distributions of nesting habitats, using body size as a surrogate scale for flight range?
Can dispersal distance be derived from the foraging ranges of bees?
Such studies, if not undermined by unfounded beliefs and foregone conclusions, hold promise for insights into the size, management, and spatial distribution of reserves that could support largely intact communities of invertebrate pollinators into the foreseeable future. We are only beginning to understand the possible effects of habitat fragmentation on bees.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A look into the garden...
The Hobbit Garden in fall is covered with tiny little leaves and stems falling from a Honey Locust that shades one end of the garden. Old bricks and stones dug up from other parts of this old place give age to the newer setting. The trellis is a metal t- shaped clothes line dug from the back yard. Chicken wire carries the climbing rose and tendrils of virginia creeper across the opening giving the space a secret garden feel in summer.

Looking toward the bridge.
Can you see the little hobbit hiding?

The Hobbit Garden, as it is playfully named, was inspired by the release of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Having read the books by J. R. Tolkien when younger and captivated by the story I was glad to see a non-animated version created by an obvious fan.
When the fence was put in many holes were dug then filled with concrete. A mound of gravel and clay soil remained. Many suggestions were made, one household member wanting to cart it off. But recent visions of hobbits were in my head so another plan was adopted. On the side near the building where there is green a slightly curving dry creekbed was placed, to guide run off to the driveway. It is named the Brandywine and crossed by a small foot bridge at one end. Rocks and stumps create spaces for wildlife and flowering plants provide fodder. There is water near the fence. Crushed pine bark mulches the forest-like floor. Virginia creeper is easily kept in bounds.
What on earth does this garden say of it's creator...
Still speaking of 'The Essential Earthman' Henry Mitchell

Carol at May Dreams Garden speaks to the relevance of writers such as Mitchell whose time has past. If being a joy to read is not enough then maybe the very points made, considered irrelevant, will spur us to think past what is currently trendy and seek what "is of relevance" to the individual garden and gardener.

Mitchell suggests that when we find a garden or scene that appeals to us, that we should look closer than the focal point that catches our eye, and see the whole picture.
I have read this advise elsewhere and used it to good results.
Trees and shrubs standing tall, vines growing up then dangling, large leaves with distinct shapes , strong form in grasses and foliage like iris leaves and rattlesnakemaster,plants that mound neatly or stay low, lush green interrupted by color, changes through the seasons, all are choices to make the garden,as Mitchell says "personal and fascinating, because there is no such thing as dullness when the gardener is going full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes, as it were."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Joining a gardener's book club.

Never needing much of a reason to read a good garden book but having few chances to discuss said books I was happy to find Carol's May Dreams Garden. Her invitation to join the fun for the winter was irresistible. I like the looks of the growing list of prospective titles and authors, some of which I have read, others heard good things about and still others that just sound interesting.

The first book has been picked for the month of November.
'The Essential Earthman' Henry Michell.

It is good to start with a book not previously read but by an author of which I am familiar.
I'm going to enjoy this.

First impressions...Mitchell had an affection for gardeners and their endeavors, understanding and sympathizing with their humanity. For Henry gardening held answers to lifes dilemma if you only paid attention, and he was willing to share his periodic enlightenment.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Autumn in the garden

Since it is October in zone 5 North America the day light hours are fewer and the nights are longer. Air temperatures are fluctuating but discernibly cooler with nights reaching dangerously close to heavy frost.
There are red berries on the Aronia (chokeberry) and on the Holly, blue berries on the Juniper and the Virginia creeper, an abundance this year of large white marble looking berries on the Symphoricarpos (snowberry) but few of the white berries are left on the Red-twigged(brick red for the winter) dogwood shrubs, for the birds ate them as fast as they ripened.
Oak leaf hydrangea and 'Annabelle' flowers hold on, changing from the rosy hues and whites to buff tan and deep brown but hold shape very well. The beautiful leaf of the Oakleaf hydrangea is enhanced by the change in color from dark green to burgandy, the bright yellow of the 'Annebelle' leaves is a wonderful backdrop for the huge darkening droopy flowerheads.
Black-eyed susan flowers have dried leaving chocolate polka dots standing out as proudly as if still garishly clothed. Tall leaning masses of wild asters color the garden still with lavender purple and white. The turtlehead (chelone) and coneflower offer solitary sights of fresh pink blooms in short lived defiance before winter sleep.
Grass, not turf but tall dominate masses of ornament hold court this time of year. The glow of sunrise and sun set behind the foliage appear to set fire to the view. Panicum, sporobolus, northern sea oats, LITTLE BLUE STEM (my absolute favorite site in winter is a good sized stand of the red color this grass turns as the freeze moves through) and Indian grass grow well in the clumps that allow flowers and bulbs to show well in each ones time. Eragrostis ( purple love grass) has that smokey pinkish purple haze at a lower close to the ground like a fog look this time of year.
A native(The Mr and I use a broad definition) garden can be awesome in autumn...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A garden must have mature trees.
On an urban lot this also means an old house.
As the Mr and I were looking for a place to live we paid attention to the potential garden.
A small ranch on a large double lot with 5 mature trees caught our attention. Perfect as I hate house work the fewer rooms the better. We can entertain outside. A fireplace and you add a couple of months to the time it is comfortable out there. Doesn't everyone love a crackling fire?
A residential street in front and an alley on two sides with only one close neighbor.
The back and sides of the house were surrounded by a six foot wooden fence but the front yard was large and open. This would mean some privacy which we both prize. What fun it is being outdoors without having to communicate with neighbors. I am somewhat reclusive prefering a good book to conversation many a warm sunny day.
The open front garden can be made into a welcoming area where hopefully those passing by will feel comfortable commenting, even stopping to chat on occassion. This may save us from seeming unsocial.
Old small house, mature trees and what seemed to be bits of an old garden. It must have been a good garden at one time. Forsythia,Spring flowering spirea, Annebelle hydrangea, an aging privet hedge,Rose of Sharon, a swath of Lily of the Valley, hosta, sedum,campanula, and in the spring hundreds of pastel tulips, a traditional garden waiting for someone.
There is a problem though, for while it certainly is more garden than the rest of the neighborhood, it is not what we intend. It is going to take some doing to make this garden ours....

Thursday, October 19, 2006

What is a garden?
How does it evolve from the space that exists, into a garden, our garden?
When do we claim it as our own?
Is it while searching for a place to call home, basing the decision on what can be envisioned, or is it only after enough change takes place,enough work has been done that our imput begins to show?

I have always lived in homes with gardens. Mothers garden, Grandmothers garden, and my own. The women in our family claim the gardens although much work has been accomplished with the aid of men. I know men that garden, but they are fewer in these circles. It may be different elsewhere. So womens gardens have shaped my vision of what a garden should be.

Grandma's garden was for food. She grew in an old fashioned way, adding aged manure,mulching with straw, turning under the dead and dying remains after a season was over. No herbicides or pesticides.
She canned some of the harvest, dried some of the harvest. She served bountiful meals all through the season. She lived in the country with plenty of land and picked berries from wild patches, apples and nuts from the trees, mushrooms from the woods. She and nature provided.

Mom grew flowers, for cutting and smelling and touching. She saved seeds, took cuttings, shared with neighbors and family and friends. She knew the names of so many of the plants that grew wild near her childhood home. Not the scientic names but the common names given to her as she asked as she grew.And then passed on to me, when I asked. She would have nothing to do with poisons. She liked Miracle Grow.

My own garden style is a combination of these spaces and people, a unique sport.

A philosophy of life encompassing the garden began to emerge. It happened slowly. When young I was indignant about mankinds role. There are so many of us and we seemed to be crowding out other inhabitants of this world. Humans are generalists in the extreme, able to adapt quickly, ever expanding into new territory. Could this bring other than disaster?
After years of education and maturity I realized that mankind could/would learn to co-exist. We would learn and adapt or crash, like all other species. Life and the earth will out.

This wildlife habitat/garden arises from this developing philosophy this journal begins...
October 20 2006