Monday, July 30, 2007

Win Some, Lose Some...

For better or worse, everything seems to even out in the world; there are numerous words and expressions for this natural tendency to parity... even-steven, fifty-fifty, up and down, win some lose some... I just wish the process wasn't sometimes so painful. For example, I've tried to stay out of the lives of the local critters, heeding the expert advice that people too often bring grief with their good intentions. A few exceptions have been made, like the above little racoons that a while back definitely lost their Mom, and were eventually taken to a racoon rehabilitator (who I was so astonished to hear was still doing her good work in spite of losing a finger to one of her charges, that I donated $200 to her cause on the spot).
I will confess we also currently have a small bunny out on the screen porch that will be released in about a week... what that's about, and why he's been named 'Lucky', will be another story. My current musing about things seeming to even out arises from a trip out to Big Grove, the forty acre nature preserve that I volunteer manage. On the way back I spied a large snapping turtle sitting on the edge of the blacktop, preparing to try and cross the very busy road. He was two miles from the lake, headed directly away from it and off into a large cornfield, though his chance of even making it across the hot blacktop was probably 5%. I stopped and ran back and grabbed him. In gratitude he constantly thrust his head back, attempting to take a bite out of me... they really do make a loud snapping noise with their powerful jaws. I was able to dump him into the back of the truck, and off we went to the lake. I was feeling like quite the noble conservationist, but not fifty feet down the road another car coming very fast the other direction flushed a whole flock of little birds right in front of my truck, and I clipped the last one, leaving it fluttering on the road. Well, so because I stopped to save an ugly, mean snapping turtle that wanted nothing better than to bite off my hand, I had just flattened an innocent little bird that only wanted to join its mates twittering in the brush. It was in a somewhat chagrined mood therefore, that I drove to the water and released my foul-tempered charge... my day was not enhanced by the large-stomached fisherman sitting on the bank, who loudly opined that I should have left the turtle on the road, because they just steal bait... there is enough unpleasantness in this story already without recounting my reply to the Joe six-pack fisherman. So, good intentions do not always lead to good results, especially when it comes to our interactions with nature. I mean well, but humility is of necessity my constant companion.
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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fancy Schmancy

It's hard to say just when it happens, or what the turning point is, but sometime in late July or early August I have to admit that our garden is in decline. Being a heavily shaded, wooded garden, it's not real big on late summer flowers which overwhelmingly are sun lovers. The air has become still and sticky, so the deer just loll about on the hill overlooking the pond, trying to catch a breeze, and the catbirds even seem to have tired of mewing at the cats... it's at times like this that a nice, fancy-schmancy, over-dressed, goin' to town flower is really needed. Daylily Banned in Boston works for me.
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Garden Suggestion

Even the most lackadaisical reader of this blog will have noted that I am a big fan of fragrant flowers, which can loft their perfume through the garden. My strongest suggestion for other gardeners is to position such plants at high points in the garden so that their fragrance flows downhill like a river, and hits you in the face as you walk through the shady ravines and other low spots... now, if your garden is flat as a pancake, I guess this advice isn't worth much, but this could be remedied with ten or fifteen truckloads of topsoil.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Slow Train To Aldershot

On our recent trip to Toronto, a city of great physical beauty and charm and friendly people, we expected a highlight to be the day we visited the Royal Botanical Garden, which lies some distance to the west along Lake Ontario. The RBG is quite large, and we anticipated slow meanderings through cool, shade dappled spaces, much akin to Kew Gardens near London, with a bonus being long vistas of the adjacent lake. We'd take a train quite a distance to Aldershot Station where we'd catch a bus to the park, but we'd already hopped on and off Toronto's underground system, which was lightning fast, so the train sounded fun. Well, the word lightning has probably never been used in the same sentence by the locals when talking about this train (unless it's been struck by it). Why this modern, nifty commuter train needs to go at twenty miles an hour the whole time is a puzzlement to me. When we finally got to Aldershot, the bus we then caught, detoured through a local shopping center, then finally dropped us off at the RBG. We were, I guess, ill-prepared, as after spending half an hour under the now-hot sun in a cloudless sky looking over the roses and a nice perennial border (pictured above) and an herb garden, we kept turnng our map this way and that looking for the rest of the displays, and realized the garden is divided up into about four separate gardens, reachable only by taking another bus. Before embarking, we did also see the wildflower area (the wildflowers being all gone by this time of year), which is woefully, and apparently to nobody's concern, getting greatly invaded by my old nemesis, garlic mustard. The shuttle bus turned out to be a creaking old double decker which, I'm quite certain was the slowest bus I've ever rode... had I wanted, I could have hopped off, bought a newspaper and hopped back on. We decided to visit the arboretum next, thinking from the map we'd be able to trail down to the lake, getting a cool breeze on this stiflingly hot day. Unfortunately, no lake, no view, and just dusty trees scattered over a large expanse of sun-baked, drought-browned grass and weeds (for Ontario has been suffering through a drought of epic proportions). We did walk one pathway, which was incompletely passable due to encroaching limbs from shrubs, apparently not having been visited all season by park staff. We were the only people there, desolately listening to the cicadas whining in the dry leaves of the trees. I now had a splitting headache and was approaching terminal crankiness. On the way back on the fume-belching double decker, we decided to pass on the rock garden, which may well have been (as the shuttle bus driver said) the highlight of the RBG. The city bus that we then had to catch to the train station was to run every fifteen minutes, but didn't show up for half an hour, loaded to the gunwales with people (groan... going to the shopping center). The train ride back to Toronto seemed even slower than the trip out... I guess they must have been worried they'd overheated the engine from speeding on the outbound route. When we finally got back to our hotel, having spent the whole day seeing some roses and some dusty trees, a cold beer never tasted so good. The second was even better, and after the third my headache was gone and I was ready to head out on the town. We had a wonderful time in Toronto; we'll go back again... but we'll not be taking the train to Aldershot.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

More Daylilies...

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Perfect White Lily?

Casa Blanca has been called the perfect white Oriental lily. Let's see... it is sturdy, has massive, heavily perfumed, pristine white flowers. It blooms reliably ever year and just gets better and better... well, o.k.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Forever Red Daylily

They talk about "sun-proof" red daylilies; I've got a fair number of plants that were so described, and I can tell you that some are and some aren't... Forever Red definitely is.
It's just a big old orangey-red daylily that isn't bothered at all by the sun, and in fact just "catches fire" when the sun shines on it, and it blooms like crazy. I guess that's enough.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pals At Last

When Sadie, our older grey tabby cat lost her sister to feline infectious peritonitis, we decided a new little playmate was in order so we got P.J., a small tabbie and white cat... well, Sadie took one look at the new little cat, hissed, and disappeared for two weeks. Gradually however, Sadie seems to have completely accepted the new arrival... well, almost.
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Monday, July 16, 2007

Heaven's Glory Daylily

Daylilies, through intensive hybridizing, have gotten frillier and more colorful, with eyes and edging... but there's certainly something to be said for some of the older hybrids (in this case Heaven's Glory, registered almost ten years ago). The subtlety of color in some of the older "plain" hybrids is quite breathtaking in the first light of morning.
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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Whose Berries Are These?

When you have a woodland garden, with all manner of plants growing higgeldy-piggeldy, you start getting lots of seedlings popping up; some native, some from faraway lands, and some interesting... weeds. Knowing the genus, let alone the species of these little plants is often a guess.
Take the above innocent looking little interloper; a stiff three inch tall stalk covered in tiny green berries. I draw a blank on it, but it stirs a vague memory of having seen it before and that it turned out to not be a prized addition to the garden... but, I'm not sure. If I pull it, only to find out later that it is from a rare Shonsu pitcher plant that only goes to seed every ten years, then dies, I'll be quite toasted. On the other hand, if I let it go to seed, I may come out next spring to find fifty hulking spotted stinkweeds taking over my flower bed. Hmmm.
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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Consider The Daylily

We have all manner of odd and unusual plants growing in our garden, from all over the temperate world... and then there are the daylilies... hardy and undemanding, the backbone of most midwest perennial gardens. Over the years I've gradually gotten away from growing daylilies, I guess just because they are so... common.
Well, they are blooming now, covered with exotic blooms in ice cream sherbet colors, and I wonder why I don't just grow daylilies. You could do a lot worse.
Above is Spacecoast Peach Fringe.
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Friday, July 13, 2007

I Love Paris In The Summer

It's time for my sort-of-annual paean to Paris polyphylla; as odd a little plant as ever came down the garden path. It's an Asian cousin to our North American trilliums, and the flower is sort of like... well, you can see what it's like. In our garden, Paris polyphylla never gets any bigger, it never gets any smaller; it just kind of sits there looking aloofly unusual. But, then it comes from kind of an unusual genus; I have a couple of other species of Paris in the garden and they are all pretty unique... not something you'd put in a garden bouquet for Sunday brunch, but interesting to grow in the woodland garden. A lot of plants from other parts of the world look right at home here in the land of corn and pork, but there's no doubt that Paris is a visitor from afar.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pointer Deer

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Few Daylily Pictures

Spacecoast Picotee Prince (above)

Velvet Eyes (below)

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Prediction (above)

Rocket Blast (below)

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Lily Conca d' Or

It is as inevitable as summer heat, that every July on this blog I will start up a continuing chorus of praise for Orienpet lilies... rather like an annoying frog croaking all day long on his lily pad.
Well, it's July, and this is Orienpet lily Conca d' Or. I don't want to put this too strongly, but in my opinion this is hands down the finest lily to ever see the light of day. Five feet tall, it's stem is sturdy enough to stand upright without staking in spite of displaying massive flowers with petals so thick they feel cast from a mold rather than grown. It posesses an intensely sweet perfume, and the colors (lemon yellow fading to creamy white at the petal tips) are crisp and bright.
You may not think you need this lily in your garden, but you do, you do... ribbit ribbit ribbit.
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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Corn And Daylilies

If there is one flower we can grow really well here in Iowa, it's the daylily; sort of the corn of the flower world. It's ease of cultivation perhaps leads to the daylily being taken for granted in our midwest gardens, but in July when they start blooming... oh my!
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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Yah, A Cat On A Chair...

I was just musing when answering some comments from readers, that I'm at the stage with our garden where I don't really need any more plants (some would say I actually passed that point about June, 1997). Anyway, instead of working to add more garden, perhaps what I should do is to go back to the space that we already have with a fresh eye, as if I was seeing it for the very first time and see whether I couldn't modify some of the garden rooms and paths to make them more interesting or pleasing, or perhaps think about adding some additional decoration... I loved the above cat on a chair atop a ten foot tall post that we saw in Kensington Market in Toronto, though that might be a little strong for our woodland garden.
On the other hand, I've learned to run for the hills when I see Liz standing in the middle of one of the rooms in our house with a faraway look on her face... I know it is going to lead to a massive reshuffling of furniture and a lot of work (why such a tiny gal has a fondness for such huge furniture that looks like it was made for giants is one of the on-going mysteries of our marriage). Maybe before surveying the garden, I'll just go for a nice, long walk in the woods.
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Friday, July 06, 2007

Madame Butterfly

We've got quite a variety of lilies blooming now in our garden... the perfume just about makes your knees feel a little wobbly when you pass a big clump of them. The perfume flows downhill like some musky amoeba, so you pass in and out of clouds of sweetness as you walk the trails and the bees float about in a buzz of delight, trailing bright orange pollen behind them. One of the more unusual of our lilies is this Lilium henryi hybrid, Madam Butterfly.
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Garden Mystery

Mystery must be one of the more difficult things to achieve in the garden (well, sometimes it's not so hard... like, how did I lose a three foot long pair of brush loppers with bright yellow handles). The difficult to achieve garden mystery I'm talking about, though, is where a visitor is presented with a garden setting that is enticing by virtue of puzzlement or partial concealment... in the above picture, the walker encounters a pathway that winds up a slight hill and out of sight, drawing you along the path to see what lies ahead. I cannot begin to convey the pleasure I receive from having a first time garden visitor lose their way in our garden... I must drag out my plans for a one way garden gate.
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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Back From Toronto

We're back from a week in Toronto; a city of great charm and beauty. One of our daytrips was to Kensington Market, an area that reminded me of my younger days living in Berkeley and on Haight Street in San Francisco. The nonconformity of the Kensingtonians certainly extended to their flower gardens... orange daylilies and bright pink roses... Yikes!
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