Hello, Summer!

A bumblebee visits gooseneck loosestrife in bloom at Bluebird Gardens.

A bumblebee visits gooseneck loosestrife in bloom at Bluebird Gardens.

Hello, Summer!

Not complaining but summer is finally here. Whew. It's been a long spring after a record mild winter; it was so mild, my honeybees had consumed their winter honey supplies by Christmas flying around looking for something to do. In the past, cold temperatures kept them clustered inside the hive, consuming very little honey until maybe early February. 

With the mild winter, spring was almost a month early this year.

Spring 2017 marked the first year in decades I had tulips blooming at Bluebird Gardens.

Spring 2017 marked the first year in decades I had tulips blooming at Bluebird Gardens.

Tulips kept me company for the first time in decades, a last minute splurge purchase last fall when I wanted to celebrate getting my driveway retaining wall with planting beds finished. Deer have made fast snacking of tulips in years past so I haven't bothered to plant them until last fall. 

With a nice spring rainy season came good conditions for plant growth. Plants in pots that wintered over inside, including tropical hibiscus and geraniums, quickly recovered and started to bloom.

My honeybees pollinated compact fruit trees and flower beds, so far giving me one of the best honey seasons so far since I started beekeeping. It's been a fun spring with queen-right bee colonies keeping me company in the garden.

This was also the year I systematically mulched all of my garden paths so they are relatively level and safe to walk on. When gardening on a hillside, that is no small feat since paths match the hillside angle unless one deliberately alters the layout. It's a pleasure now to meander through the flower beds without fear of slipping down the hill along with the strawberry plants.

There's more to do. There is always something more that needs to be done but I will take a few minutes to savor what I have done so far.

Not for long. I love this sign I saw recently, it epitomizes summer:

If you have time to read this, you have time to weed.

Charlotte

Cloning Roses

These are roses from a florist from a summer wedding I decided to try to clone.

These are roses from a florist from a summer wedding I decided to try to clone.

Cloning Roses

You probably have seen the same videos that caught my attention, ones showing how to clone roses by planting them in potatoes.

I thought about those videos as I was enjoying a friend’s son’s wedding earlier this summer. The table decorations were beautiful bowls of pink and white roses.

Table decorations at my friend Margaret's son's wedding in Kansas City July 2016.

Table decorations at my friend Margaret's son's wedding in Kansas City July 2016.

As I was leaving the wedding venue, I thought why not take this opportunity to see if this cloning process works.

If it does, I could give a cloned rose to the bride as a wedding memento. I also suspected my friend, mother of the groom, would love to have a start.

It would be an unusual but sweet memory of the lovely Kansas City weekend.

I collected the same size water bottles to make little domes over the pots.

I collected the same size water bottles to make little domes over the pots.

I collected a dozen clear plastic water bottles without lids.

I used the same size bottles so I could monitor if there was one type of rose that did better than another one.

I selected a bag of large russet potatoes to feed the rose starts.

I selected a bag of large russet potatoes to feed the rose starts.

I also purchased a bag of large russet potatoes and dusted off a dozen clean plastic pots in a tray.

Rooting hormone should be used separate than the original container so it's not contaminated.

Rooting hormone should be used separate than the original container so it's not contaminated.

Rooting hormone is a staple in my gardening supplies. Best to spoon out a little into a separate container and use that supply instead of dipping straight into the container.

After removing rose leaves, making clean cuts and dusting with root hormone, in they went.

After removing rose leaves, making clean cuts and dusting with root hormone, in they went.

Adding bagged potting soil, I trimmed off rose leaves, dipped the newly-cut rose stems in rooting hormone and eased them into the potato holes before covering with soil and watering.

In some cases, the rose stems were shorter than the recommended 6-8 inches. I used them anyway, making sure growing nodes were covered by soil.

Potted potatoes with rose stems under their clear water bottle domes.

Potted potatoes with rose stems under their clear water bottle domes.

Glitch with Rose Cloning

In researching rose cloning, I discovered a glitch. Some roses offered for sale in the US are patented, which means only the person holding the patent has the right to asexually reproduce the plant.

Much like videos that are copied without permission, rose breeders hold the rights to their registered roses. Cloning the rose, especially for sale, is illegal and denies the rose breeders their rights to make money.

Rose patents are good for 20 years. Any rose introduced within the last 20 years are also probably patented. To stay out of trouble, it is best to only propagate rose varieties that are at least 20 years old.

I don’t have a clue what the wedding roses were. They were provided by a florist, which means they may not be patented and were grown overseas.

Red miniature roses bloom most of the Missouri growing season in my garden.

Red miniature roses bloom most of the Missouri growing season in my garden.

Too bad because I still have old hybrid tea and miniature roses that bloom continuously once they start, adding a lovely scent to my garden.

I also enjoy feeding them a mixture of egg shells, dried banana peels, Epsom salts and dried coffee grounds during their growing season. One of my hybrid teas is more than 30 years old.

After several weeks, I couldn’t wait any longer so I peeked at the plastic bottle-covered pots.

Cloned rose stems in potatoes showing signs of growth - of potatoes!

Cloned rose stems in potatoes showing signs of growth - of potatoes!

Sure enough, it was working. I was growing very green, and very healthy, potatoes!

Have you tried to clone - well, anything from the garden?

Charlotte

Hummingbirds in Gardens

Hummingbird at a Bluebird Gardens syrup feeder.

Hummingbirds in Gardens

 I have had a couple of calls about aggressive hummingbirds protecting sugar water feeders this time of year.

Hummingbirds are territorial most of summer but we seem to notice their aggressive behavior more early fall. I don't know if it's because we are more cognizant of them because of changes in our weather in September or they are spending more energy chasing off rivals but they do get protective of their feeding stations.

Territorial hummingbirds make things easier for us in the Midwest by migrating end of September. These lovely tropical birds winter over in Central and South America so if they are eating you out of house and home, know they will be leaving shortly.

If you have been feeding them all summer, continue to feed them until they leave. They have become accustomed to your source of sugar syrup, one part sugar to four parts water. No need to add red dye, the red color of the hummingbird feeder is enough to catch their eye. Make sure to use hot water when mixing with sugar, then allow to cool before filling the feeder. Also make sure to change the sugar water every second or third day, especially if temperatures are hot. 

Don't clean hummingbird feeders out with soap, they don't like feeders that have been treated with most soaps. I use hot water to kill the bacteria, then clean the feeder out with a bottle brush. 

Hard to believe I will soon be putting the hummingbird feeders away, it feels like I just dusted them off.

Hummingbird feeders make nice gifts so if you find one you like, pick an extra one up for someone's birthday or holiday gift. They can be hard to find around the holidays so I buy them now if I want to gift them. Sometimes they are available on sale this time of year so you can pick them up for next year's use, too.

Do you have hummingbirds visiting your garden?

Charlotte

Ragweed

Unassuming ragweed getting ready to bloom at the corner of Bluebird Gardens.

Unassuming ragweed getting ready to bloom at the corner of Bluebird Gardens.

Ragweed

If there is one weed that is misunderstood, it is ragweed. Well, maybe not so much misunderstood as mis-identified. All of those reports of daily high pollen counts are due to this unassuming plant, not the showier goldenrod, which often gets the blame.

A showy yellow goldenrod in bloom in my garden is not responsible for my sneezing.

A showy yellow goldenrod in bloom in my garden is not responsible for my sneezing.

 

22 Varieties of Goldenrod

Missouri has 22 varieties of goldenrod blooming from June through September, making them seem interchangeable as garden flowers go but they are different varieties. The bright yellow flowers, cousins to daisies, are hard to miss, especially when they bloom in large swaths across fields.

I like Goldenrod because it is a hardy plant, often establishing itself in poor soils and adding a gold tone to our fall palate. They are perennials so they basically take care of themselves.

Ragweed

Ragweed, on the other hand, is a quiet, unassuming aster cousin. They are distributed throughout North America, primarily the southwest. A single plant can produce about a billion grains of pollen per season. It causes about half of all cases of pollen-associated allergic reactions in North America, starting in July through the first frost.

A closeup of ragweed flowers in bloom, causing grief to allergy sufferers.

A closeup of ragweed flowers in bloom, causing grief to allergy sufferers.

Although I appreciate that people with allergies, including myself, keep a close eye on the pollen and mold reports, I can't help but hope my buzzing bees also know about this generous pollen source. The plants are not very showy so I don't know that they attract a bee's attention. When conditions are right, bees can get a second "flow" in fall to store honey for winter but I have yet to see bees on ragweed.

Does ragweed cause you allergy grief?

Charlotte

Bumblebees in Gardens

Bumblebees on gooseneck loosestrife at Bluebird Gardens.

Bumblebees in Gardens

It’s been a busy time for calls about bumblebees. We may think our gardens are places to grow food and flowers, and develop a green mantle of a lawn, but to wild animals gardens are home.

Several recent calls centered around bumblebees stinging. Bumblebees, like many other pollinators such as butterflies, are at their peak population in September. Most bumblebee nests are in the ground and house 300-400 bees. Only the queen bumblebee makes it through winter so their canning supplies – honey – are only enough for one bee.

Bumblebees are normally quite docile, going about their business of shaking pollen out of flowers and not bothering anyone. They will sting if they feel threatened. Driving a lawn mower over their nest entrance qualifies to a bumblebee as a threat.

On the other hand, bumblebees are wonderful pollinators, providing a bounty of green peppers and tomatoes.  If you don’t have them in your main traffic area, one option is to stay away from that area until a hard frost. It is a small price to pay for their pollination services.

Have you seen bumblebees in your garden?

Charlotte

Autumn Sedum "Joy"

Autumn Joy Sedum plant getting ready for fall at Bluebird Gardens.

Autumn Joy Sedum plant getting ready for fall at Bluebird Gardens.

Autumn Sedum "Joy"

If I was stranded on a desert island and could only pick one plant, this would be it. Autumn  Sedum "Joy" is a plant that transforms itself through the four seasons, remaining easy care even through record hot Missouri summer temperatures and drought conditions.

Autumn Sedum "Joy" is easy to overlook in spring, when the plant develops rose-like greenery. By mid-summer, the plant becomes a larger bush with green, broccoli-like buds. The buds flower into a pink haze,  finally deepening into rich bronzy-red. Even the dead flower heads have good winter effect. In rich soils, plants may be pinched in June to prevent floppiness. A classic perennial!

One of my Autumn Sedums "Joy" in spring, forming rose-like leaves as the plant grows.

One of my Autumn Sedums "Joy" in spring, forming rose-like leaves as the plant grows.

By the time summer rolls around, the plant reminds me of heads of broccoli. The flower heads then bloom into lovely pink flowers.

Autumn Sedum "Joy" beginning to bloom in Missouri mid-summer.

Autumn Sedum "Joy" beginning to bloom in Missouri mid-summer.

A little Iphone micro-lens gave me this close up of the Autumn Sedum "Joy" flowers. So pretty!

Close-up of Autumn Sedum "Joy" flowers in bloom September 2016 at Bluebird Gardens.

Close-up of Autumn Sedum "Joy" flowers in bloom September 2016 at Bluebird Gardens.

By winter, Autumn Sedum "Joy" flower heads have dried to a rich cinnamon brown. I often cut the flower heads off to refresh my dried flower arrangements. The ones that stay in the garden turn into what I call "snow flowers."

Snow-covered Autumn Sedum "Joy" in winter suggests snow flowers, or so I call them.

Snow-covered Autumn Sedum "Joy" in winter suggests snow flowers, or so I call them.

Autumn Sedum "Joy" requires almost no care. I have it planted in a variety of soils, moisture and light conditions and it's doing well in all of them. The only thing it doesn't seem to recover well from was getting trampled on when a beehive was temporarily parked next to one. Despite getting broken branches, that plant is recovering quite nicely!

Do you have Autumn Sedum "Joy" in your garden?

Charlotte

Reasons for a Folding Fence

A folding fence for sale at a silent auction with one of the best reasons to buy it!

A folding fence for sale at a silent auction with one of the best reasons to buy it!

Reasons for a Folding Fence

For the past two years, our local master gardener group has held a silent auction to benefit the chapter's operational fund. I missed the sale last year so I was intrigued to see what master gardeners would bring to sell this year.

There were the usual contributions of plants, from succulents to hawthorne and double rose of sharon starts. The table with gardening books was, unfortunately, too familiar. With the exception of one book on trellises, I had either read or currently owned the rest of the books.

Along one wall, a line of tables held a variety of different garden implements. The one that caught my eye was a green metal folding fence, something I have been considering buying to try to keep my herbs and spearmint from migrating all over my garden. I realize the fence will not help with the real culprits, the spearmint runs wild thanks to the running roots underground, but I do like to have my garden look nice. The folding fence would at least give a corner some semblance of order, even if we all know better.

As I was getting ready to write my silent bid, I spotted the excellent job of marketing. The person who had donated the fence wrote for "keeping your husband from cutting your flowers down."

How many of us have had that happen??

Charlotte

Vinca Inspiration

Does this remind you of a flower bed of impatiens? These are easy to grow vincas!

Does this remind you of a flower bed of impatiens? These are easy to grow vincas!

Vinca Inspiration

It's almost fall, a time when I start making notes of what didn't work, and what did, over this last growing season.

I managed to get a flower bed of zinnias planted, something I sometimes wait too long to start only this year, someone ate the tops off. I love the strong colors of zinnias, a must plant flower for anyone who asks me for recommendations.

Tulips, on the other hand, have been relegated to only in a bulb garden status. Not that I don't love tulips, especially pink tulips. but so do deer grazing through my garden. 

I also like impatiens for shady areas, although the impatiens blight has given me second thoughts about planting them in large swaths. Enter vincas, an easy to grow annual I have tucked away in several pots on my deck when I shop the end of spring plant sales.

For some reason, I had never considered them for flower beds until I saw this lovely combination  in the photo at a St. Louis hotel. I thought at first they were impatiens but they were in full sun. As I got closer, and cleaned my glasses, I could see what they actually were. Great idea, and the first suggestion I am writing in my garden diary to consider next year!

What are you writing in your garden diary to try next year?

Charlotte

Vanishing Tomato Plant

My once robust deck tomato plant all of a sudden looked like it was being eaten.

My once robust deck tomato plant all of a sudden looked like it was being eaten.

Vanishing Tomato Plant

It was a sunny cool early September afternoon. I decided to take a book and join my cat Margaret on my deck chair, one of Margaret's all time favorite things to do. Mine, too, especially when I don't have anything pressing on my schedule. I'm retired now, I thought, I can take a couple of hours to relax and read.

A few minutes later, out of the corner of my eye I saw my once beautiful potted tomato plant vanishing. Most gardeners will confess they may have garden dreams but they often don't realize when they come even close. Our minds are making mental notes spotting something else that needs to be done instead of appreciating what they have accomplished so far. I tried to shut that part of my brain off for a few more minutes but I couldn't concentrate on my book. I had to take a closer look.

Tell-tale skat under my vanishing tomato plant gave me the first clue of what was happening.

Tell-tale skat under my vanishing tomato plant gave me the first clue of what was happening.

The first thing I noticed was that the leaves were now gone from the lush top of the plant. I had just moved the plant to the left a couple of days ago for fear it was too top heavy so I had a very recent impression of how lush it had been.

As I looked closer, I found the culprit. More like culprits, I counted six that I could easily see.

Here's the culprit, a tobacco hornworm, which has a voracious appetite.

Here's the culprit, a tobacco hornworm, which has a voracious appetite.

The tobacco hornworm is one of two caterpillars that can devour a tomato plant on their way to becoming a moth. The tomato and tobacco hornworms are very similar in markings and size but this one is a tobacco hornworm. I had a number of  3-4 inch Carolina moths on my deck earlier this spring so I am guessing these are their progeny.

With our record summer temperatures this year, it appears the caterpillars waited until the temperatures where cooler before hatching and kicking off their metamorphosis cycle. Much like their more flamboyant, and endangered, pollinators, the Monarch butterflies, Carolina moths are part of the family of pollinators that keep plants propagating themselves. Many of those plants are our sources of food.

I have several tomato plants finally having fruit ripen, we can share. I am keeping an eye on my other tomato plants in case those are getting munched on as well. I would still like to have a few fresh tomatoes this year. 

If I decide I have too many, I will freeze the caterpillars and feed them to my birds and frogs.

Have you seen tobacco hornworms on your tomato plants this year?

Charlotte

Rooting Mums

Mum starts can be dusted with root hormone and added to a garden spot to start new plants.

Mum starts can be dusted with root hormone and added to a garden spot to start new plants.

Rooting Mums

Fall must right around the corner because chrysanthemums plants are popping up all over my home town.

The pretty tiny flowers add fall color to a landscape from different tones of yellows to orange, red, white and burgundy. Mums are also being appreciated as garden flowers because they deter bugs. Most of the "natural" bug sprays on the market are made with mum extract so I am going to add a few more mums around my garden to keep bugs at bay.

How to Make New Mums

You can either collect cuttings from your mums or pick up pieces that have been knocked off existing plants.

I was moving a couple of mums and had several pieces that broke off. I made a fresh cut on the bottom, made sure there was one node where leaves were attached; removed the leaves and placed them in water until I could get them into the garden.

Rooting hormone is a staple in my garden supplies, just don't reuse.

Rooting hormone is a staple in my garden supplies, just don't reuse.

Rooting Hormone

One of my garden supply staples is rooting hormone. It helps plants develop roots in soil and is available at most garden and nursery centers.

Pour a little root hormone into a separate container. Dip the mum cutting in water, then dip in root hormone.

I save my root hormone in a little container so that I have it handy to use.

Do not pour root hormone back into original container or you may contaminate the powder.

Make a small hole in soil and insert the root hormone-covered mum cutting.

Make a small hole in soil and insert the root hormone-covered mum cutting.

Place Root Hormone-Covered Start in Soil

Once you have the root covered in root hormone, make a hole in moist soil. Carefully add the root hormone-covered plant in hole and cover.

If soil isn't moist, add water and allow to get moist before you add the plant start.

Cover plant start with moist soil and wait several days for roots to form.

Cover plant start with moist soil and wait several days for roots to form.

Now Wait

Now comes the hard part, waiting. Don't peek or you will dislodge the root hormone from the plant.

I wait a month before I gently tug on the start. If it resists, congratulations you have roots started.

If if comes out of the ground, it didn't take.

The good news with mums is, they are relatively easy to root so it's worth the effort.

Have you tried to root mum starts?

Charlotte

My Favorite Border Plant

Monkey Grass not only makes a nice border plant but it blooms in August when little is blooming.

Monkey Grass not only makes a nice border plant but it blooms in August when little is blooming.

My Favorite Border Plant

There is no doubt in my mind what plant is my favorite border plant. Ever hear of Monkey Grass? Liriope muscari is the Latin name for the most common variety of this plant family and the one I have the most in my garden.

What's not to love. It's easy to care for, heat and drought tolerant, crowds out weeds and tolerates a variety of soils including the worst my limestone hillside garden can offer. And it blooms in August to boot, a month when little is adding garden color.

I bought a start a good 20 years ago or so. Since then, I have been using the expanded clumps as a source of starts to line flower beds and add garden accents. It's easy to take them for granted because they are so easy to grown but I particularly like them in bloom.

Monkey Grass in bloom in my garden lining flower beds and adding accent interest.

Monkey Grass in bloom in my garden lining flower beds and adding accent interest.

These plants are also easy to divide. Once a clump is dug up, my spade can easily cut the clump into smaller starts. 

These border plants look so pretty along flower borders!

Monkey grass as my edging around bluebird gardens.

Monkey grass as my edging around bluebird gardens.

Aren't these tiny flowers sweet? Bees also like monkey grass flowers!

Aren't these tiny flowers sweet? Bees also like monkey grass flowers!

One of the additional benefits of monkey grass for me are the teeny tiny flowers. Bees like to visit them once the flowers start to bloom if nothing else is around to catch their attention.

Some people also give these plants a spring trim to cut off the greenery that turns brown in a USDA zone 5B winter. I don't, the old leaves melt into the ground as natural mulch and new leaves pop out and quickly take over the old dying greenery.

What is your favorite plant border?

Charlotte

Naked Ladies

Surprise lilies, also called naked ladies, make lovely cut flowers.

Surprise lilies, also called naked ladies, make lovely cut flowers.

Naked Ladies

When I started doing a live Rolla radio interview a few years back, I would take fresh flowers in from my garden.

Both radio personalities Lee Buhr and Bob McKune seemed to enjoy the flowers, and it was a fun way to relate to radio listeners. For the following days after the interview, people would approach me with their stories about a particular flower or on-air discussion.

One year, I had to step away for a few minutes before the interview so I snuck the flowers into the studio.

It was a vase of surprise lilies, also called resurrection lilies or magic lilies.

Surprise lilies get their nickname from their habit of blooming on naked stalks.

Surprise lilies get their nickname from their habit of blooming on naked stalks.

A cousin to the popular Amaryllis bulbs available around Christmas, surprise lilies leaf out in spring, then die back until mid-July, when one green stalk makes its way out of the ground and soft pink blooms appear on the top for several days.

One surprise lily can fill a room with its sweet fragrance.

As cut flowers, surprise lily stalks have an interesting habit of curling up at the bottom, giving them a very modern look in a clear glass vase.

Perennial bulbs originally from the East - either Japan or China, surprise lilies are found on old farmsteads in Missouri, almost as popular as daffodils and day lilies.

When I got back to the radio station, I was told the phones were ringing off the hook.

Thinking it was due to some discussion Lee and Bob were having, I thought nothing of it when Bob motioned me to enter the studio.

We had a nice discussion about surprise lilies and what else was growing in my garden, a few words about an upcoming event and I was through.

As I was getting back to my office, someone asked if I had heard what Bob had said as my introduction to the interview.

"Bob said coming up next, naked ladies in the studio."

That's another name for surprise lilies, but to this day there are some people who bring it up as if they need confirmation impish Bob wasn't talking about me!

Charlotte

 

 

 

Tackling Poison Ivy

Poison ivy in my garden reaching 7 feet tall once I stretched out the pulled up plant.

Poison ivy in my garden reaching 7 feet tall once I stretched out the pulled up plant.

Tackling Poison Ivy

There was a section of my garden that had been taken over by poison ivy, a plant that secretes a substance that irritates my skin when touched. Some friends don't have the itchy, burning reaction I get from poison ivy so it was with some dread that I planned for the assault.

The garden bed has great potential for development. Actually it already has daffodils and several perennials growing in it but it still can use both a cleaning, and more plantings.

To get ready, I purchased a long sleeve shirt at our local Salvation Army; pulled two pairs of socks on before lacing boots; pulled on my long, rose pruning leather gloves and made sure I had Caladryl Clear Lotion in hand. It not only dries up the affected skin but helps with itching, too. And unlike the old-fashioned pink tinted Calamine Lotion, I don't look like I fell into a vat of hot pink goo.

The weather cooled off into the 70s so, with firm determination, I plunged into the weed patch.

The tallest poison ivy plant was more than 7 feet tall, the trunk a good half inch wide. A gardening friend said his poison ivy was 1-inch thick growing up a tree, where he leaves it for birds to eat the fruit. I thought about that but then decided I may never tackle this corner again if I didn't get it cleaned out. I decided I would feed my birds sunflower seeds in penance but my poison ivy vines were coming out.

Poison ivy has three leaves that turn red in fall, one of the first plants to start changing color.

Poison ivy has three leaves that turn red in fall, one of the first plants to start changing color.

Poison ivy is one of the plants that turn a pretty red in fall. During summer, the three green leaves on reddish stems are a giveaway. I don't tackle poison ivy in spring because the stems don't turn color until early summer and I don't want to pull out a favorite perennial by mistake.

The garden corner is now cleaned out enough so that I can work it without wrestling poison ivy vines. I pulled most of them out of the ground by their roots so hopefully I can keep the rest under control from now on.

My arms?

All covered in large goose-pimple looking welts that itch, the poison ivy secretion made it through the long-sleeve cotton shirt. Next time, I need two shirts. What am I saying, hopefully there isn't a next time.

On the other hand, I found two blueberry bushes I had forgotten were planted in the bed next to the blackberry vines.  I will be making sure their soil is amended so they can happily grow in more acidic soil.

Are you allergic to poison ivy?

Charlotte

A Lesson in Unexpected Consequences

A Lesson in Unexpected Consequences

It's easy to blame someone else for a number of life's challenges - poverty, rapidly changing climate, the potential loss of chocolate as a commodity - but I was recently reminded it is not always a deliberate action that generates the issues.

I was getting ready to change the water in a little 5-gallon tank that hosts my cat Margaret's goldfish, Laverne. There used to be two goldfish but when Shirley died, Laverne made it clear the fish tank was hers and hers alone. Two small goldfish I tried to introduce were relegated to the outside pond after Laverne made it clear they were not welcome.

As I was getting ready to clean the tank, I remembered I had hornwort growing in the outside pond. It's a treat for goldfish so I pulled a wad out and added it to the aquarium tank.

Hornwort grows in my little pond at Bluebird Gardens among the water lilies.

Hornwort grows in my little pond at Bluebird Gardens among the water lilies.

What I didn't realize was that the hornwort, floating on top of the pond surface, was also doing double duty.

Hornwort floats on top of the water surface in both my pond and aquarium.

Hornwort floats on top of the water surface in both my pond and aquarium.

After getting sidetracked from the tank cleaning, I returned to move the tank to the kitchen, only to find Laverne was now hosting dozens of tadpoles.

I had not intended to bring those frogs inside but there they were, hanging from the top of the tank greenery.

Meet Laverne, my cat Margaret's pet goldfish, now living with several unexpected visitors.

Meet Laverne, my cat Margaret's pet goldfish, now living with several unexpected visitors.

Now I can't clean out the tank. I have to decide whether to take it outside and return the tadpoles to their original pond or let them grow inside until they are big enough to release.

My inclination is to fish Laverne out of the tank and to empty the water, tadpoles and all, back into the original pond. I keep sorting through the consequences of doing that. I may not have considered that when I first fished the hornwort out the pond but I am more sensitive to better thinking things through before I do something.

Another life lesson from my garden.

Charlotte

Deck Wren Gets New Birdhouse

Some of the bounty I picked up at Rolla's Farmers Market including a new handmade wren house.

Some of the bounty I picked up at Rolla's Farmers Market including a new handmade wren house.

Deck Wren Gets New Birdhouse

Of all of the birds in my summer garden, Carolina wrens hold a special place in my heart. I had a little wren that kept me company for many years outside my office window, her joyful singing a welcome respite to office work and politics.

I brought in a bird bath to make sure she had water, and periodically filled a nearby bird feeder so she could easily get food when she was raising her brood. 

After I retired, I found another Caroline wren was keeping me company at home. They are easy to spot, their brown and white feathers and longer beek a giveaway to their identification.

This Carolina wren had settled into a less than attractive space.

The little Carolina wren made a nest inside the electrical meter box on my deck.

The little Carolina wren made a nest inside the electrical meter box on my deck.

This is a birdhouse-looking box that covers the electrical meter on the deck. The Carolina "deck" wren built a nest on the top of the box, safe from prying eyes but not necessarily the safest place. The box is just hanging from a hook on the wall, covering the ugly electrical meter.

Carolina wrens sometimes build decoy nests so this may not be a permanent home. However, when I was at our local farmer's market, I saw a little handmade wren house that was perfect to add to my deck.

Birdhouses are a wonderful garden gift idea. Pair with a bird book or bird-themed quilt for a gift that keeps on giving. Birds are good garden companions, often eating bugs and other unwanted garden visitors. They are also a lot of fun to watch.

The new wren house installed and ready to welcome a new bird, should she decide to move in.

The new wren house installed and ready to welcome a new bird, should she decide to move in.

The new, handmade wren house now hangs from a hook in a corner, right across from the electrical box. A large potted plant underneath gives the house cover, and there is a bird bath nearby with water.

Hopefully my little deck wren will like these accommodations better and leave her electrical box nest for safer accommodations.

Do you have birds nesting on your property?

Charlotte

To Mulch or Not to Mulch

Two of my delivered truckloads of mulch from our recycling center by a good friend.

Two of my delivered truckloads of mulch from our recycling center by a good friend.

To Mulch or Not to Mulch...

Honestly, do you really think this is even a question? Of course we should mulch, there are so many reasons to do it:

  • it helps stabilize soil temperatures
  • keeps moisture in
  • amends our notorious Ozark clay
  • makes a garden bed look finished.

Maybe more importantly, especially to those of us crazy enough to dream about luscious gardens and to try to garden in limestone Ozark hills, mulch will break down into soil. Rich, fluffy, easy to plant, fabulous to grow in - soil.

Mulch starts out as tree limbs that get ground up. In my hometown, the recycling center does the grinding, then piles up the mulch in huge piles. Residents can either help themselves or wait until Wednesdays mid-March through mid-September for a loader to pile on the mulch.

The main challenge with mulch, and mulch piles, is that it takes some time to decompose so that it's ready to be used. If you put a shovel into it and it's smoking, it's literally too hot. If you place that mulch on flower beds, it will literally burn up the plants so let it sit. Maybe for 6 months to a year until it is safe to add.

If you can't wait, only apply 2-3 inches of mulch - less is more - and that shallow layer will quickly cool off enough to not burn. However, using mulch that's so green means it will remove existing soil nitrogens so I don't recommend doing this unless absolutely necessary. Say, you have a wedding in your backyard.

Don't do it if you are listing your house, hot mulch will burn your landscaping so buy already seasoned mulch to give your lawn that finished look only mulch can give.

One of the benefits of mulch, soil stays moist and mushrooms help decompose the wood chips.

One of the benefits of mulch, soil stays moist and mushrooms help decompose the wood chips.

How Do You Know Your Mulch is Ready to Use?

That's easy, when you pull out a shovel-full, it should be cool to the touch, no heat vapors coming up.

I check my aging mulch piles for tell-tale signs of readiness; earthworms, mushrooms growing, water retention are all good signs the mulch pile is ready to use.

What signs do you use to tell you it's time to mulch?

Charlotte

Be Patient with Impatiens

A pot of impatiens at the corner of my Bluebird Gardens home getting some rain.

A pot of impatiens at the corner of my Bluebird Gardens home getting some rain.

Be Patient with Impatiens

If I spend any money on annuals, it's on impatiens, Latin for Impatients. I especially love the double ones, which look like small roses.

This year, a friend gave me a start of her pink Impatients so I planted them in my favorite garden spot, a pot that lies at the walkway corner to the front of my house. We often think about doing creative things with plants but one can also be creative with pot placement. In this case, I lie the pot on it's side and plant it so the flowers seem to be spilling out of the pot.

These little pink plants almost didn't make it. 

The first little sprig was consumed by a rabbit; I saw it hopping off when I was rounding the corner. Could have been Peter Rabbit, didn't see him close enough to identify.

Then we had record hot summer temperatures in Missouri, something impatients don't like, particularly if someone forgets to keep their soil moist. Guilty, but not by design, I thought I was watering them. They needed more.

Finally we had a break in the weather and a summer rain storm cooled everything off. It was just what the flowers needed to bloom.

This turned on its side flower pot keeps getting picked up. Please leave it as you found it!

This turned on its side flower pot keeps getting picked up. Please leave it as you found it!

Impatiens prefer shade so I have this pot in a shady area where I can see it daily.

Whenever I spot it, I smile at the memory of a contractor doing work at the house. Whenever he would walk by the pot, he would pick it up and "set it right," thereby dislodging the flower roots.

I finally convinced him to leave the pot alone but I don't think he was ever convinced I had it sideways by design!

Charlotte

Dogs in The Garden

Tom and his rescued dogs form a welcome committee for any visitor to his garden.

Tom and his rescued dogs form a welcome committee for any visitor to his garden.

Dogs in the Garden

One of my neighbors, as the bees fly, has the most charming garden. Tom is now retired so he works "harder" than he did when he was employed, he likes to remind me whenever he checks on my transition into retirement.

Tom also took one of my beekeeping classes and regularly volunteers at our bee club meetings. Of all of the students I have met so far, Tom has the keenest interest in the impact bees have on a garden. Understandably so since his garden is already quite pretty.

When he texted me his gourds have "gone wild." I had to stop by for a look. After asking if this was a good time, I was met at the gate by Tom's retinue of rescued dogs, quite the posse of rescued Yorkies and one  dachshund who takes his guard dog duties very seriously.

Once I was sniff-approved for entrance, we walked - well, more like meandered - the long way around the garden to get to the vegetable section to see the gourds. 

Tom's gourds are growing next to his nearby bee garden.

Tom's gourds are growing next to his nearby bee garden.

Sure enough, the gourds had exploded, going from teeny tiny last week to fully-grown. Not sure bees had anything to say about that quick growth but they are pretty hanging from the cattle panel he uses as an arbor. You bet I'm taking that idea into my garden!

Back in the shady garden, we found one of the welcome committee busy at work on mole patrol.

"That was a beautiful garden spot this spring," Tom said, as I mentioned that columbines used to grow there. 

"I won't have to worry about being attacked by moles now," Tom said as he nonchalantly walked around the now re-landscaped area. Reminded me of the little hand-embroidered dog in garden dish towels we added last year.

Charming Bluebird Gardens Dogs in Garden Dish Towels also causing havoc!

Charming Bluebird Gardens Dogs in Garden Dish Towels also causing havoc!

Dogs certainly have their own take on life, regardless of what we think we have to say about it.

In this case, one of Tom's dogs seems to be saying this part of the garden needs new landscaping.

One of Tom's Yorkies has dug up a corner of his spring garden to hunt for moles.

One of Tom's Yorkies has dug up a corner of his spring garden to hunt for moles.

Well, Tom, I would say that new hole would make a great place for a new planting!

Charlotte

Missouri Dayflowers

One of Missouri's true blue wildflowers, dayflower.

One of Missouri's true blue wildflowers, dayflower.

Missouri's Dayflower

It's almost unavailable any more, true blue garden flowers. So it's with a little consternation that I watch a friend mow down a lovely patch of one of Missouri's true blue wildflowers, the dayflower commelina communis. As you can guess from the plant's name, the one-inch blue flowers last only a day. 

A cousin of the fleshy-stemmed spiderwort, dayflowers grow on more narrow fleshy stems with oval leaves, preferring shade to full sun.

Another lovely Missouri wildflower and cousin to Missouri dayflowers, spiderwort.

Another lovely Missouri wildflower and cousin to Missouri dayflowers, spiderwort.

When I see the two pictures close together, it's easier to see the family connection.

One of the advantages of having dayflowers around is that you can use them in bald spots. Once they establish themselves, they can form a nice edge.

If you don't like where they settle, not a problem. The roots are on the surface, making the plants easily to pull up and move.

Dayflowers fill in a corner at Bluebird Gardens.

Dayflowers fill in a corner at Bluebird Gardens.

Dayflowers will fill in an empty garden spot quickly, bringing both green depth and a taste of blue wherever they grow. Leave them if they aren't disturbing anything; it's an empty garden spot because nothing else will grow there. 

They remind me of little blue bees with yellow eyes but then I tend to see bees in everything  around me.

Charlotte