Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Walk with Me

Smooth Aster
Every morning I take a quick tour of our property to see what's up, particularly how the native plants are doing.  I thought it be fun for you to come with me and hear my random thoughts.

This morning the grass is particularly wet so I slip into my large rubber garden boots and head 60 feet down the driveway to the "Monarch Farm".  Oh my gosh!  A mole has gotten into this bed bordered with deep plastic edging.  Although I appreciate his efforts at turning over our soil breaking up some of the clay, and eating some grubs, this isn't going to look good if he burrows under the edging into our lawn, or worse, our neighbor's lawn.  I wonder how he got into the bed in the first place.  Later I'll set the trap that worked so well in the side yard earlier this year.  And hooray - the Smooth Asters planted in the spring have burst into bloom.  Nice indeed.  After I get the mole taken care of, I'd sure like to get rid of that edging and expand the bed.  There's a narrow band of bare dirt next to the bed where the yews were growing last year.  My first thought had been to plant grass there, but hey, I really want to reduce the lawn.  So this'll be a nice easy expansion of native plantings.

Now retracing my steps back up the driveway to the front walk and the two prairie beds.  The Prairie Dropseed grasses have put up nice long seed heads.  They aren't quite ready for seed collecting but I'll keep checking.  Most of the Blue-Eyed Grass has filled out nicely.  There are a few of these plants that haven't flourished and several looked like they were dead.  However, today I notice there are small shoots coming emerging from several of them.  And the Prairie Smoke presents a similar story.  Most of them have spread out from the small dime sized plants placed in the spring.  But several of them have also struggled.  It'll be interesting to see how they all show next spring. 

Moving up the walk, I again see the Eastern Red Cedar tree that has volunteered to grow at the base of an Elm tree that's slowly falling apart.  Can I keep this here to replace the Elm.  The Eastern Red Cedar is the only evergreen native to Northwest Ohio.  I want to keep it.   Now I'm looking at the Purple Love Grass.  It is putting up more small seed heads but will take several years to fill out nicely.  The Northern Sea Oats flat seed heads are just starting to get a bit of bronze color on their edges.  The Ostrich Fern I transplanted weeks ago isn't thriving like I expected, but they are sending up new shoots.  That's a good sign.  The new Wild Geranium plants may be suffering from too much water.  The drip irrigation system that is keeping a new grass seed planting moist is also watering this area of natives mixed with older foreign ornamentals.  The natives won't need the water, so perhaps now is the time to remove the watering from this area.  The small Bottlebrush Grass sprigs next to the front porch are all showing new shoots, and the several Wild Ginger plants I put here are doing well.   Oh - here's a small invasive honeysuckle seedling showing itself.  I quickly pull that out.  All the invasives get my immediate attention while the other weeds I remove with less urgency. 

I now step off the concrete walk, walking close to the front part of the house staying out of the organic lawn experiment area (another story soon on this).  This front foundation area I carefully step through as the small Columbine seedlings are still taking hold but doing nicely.  This will be very colorful in the spring.  Continuing along the foundation to the southwest corner of the house, I check on the rescued Eastern Wahoo.  Good.  It now has ten pairs of leaves and looks healthy.  I should cut down the original 4 foot dead stalk so the new growth doesn't rub against it and get damaged in the wind.   Ooh!  Here's a small invasive Garlic Mustard sprout.  That quickly gets pulled and put in my pocket for later safe disposal. 

Sliding around the southeast side of the front organic lawn experiment, I get to check out all the native plants in the large shaded bed.  The Columbine have really recovered from their aggressive spring transplanting and the seedlings are also showing robust growth.  I really like that mellow green of the late summer Columbine leaves.  Hey - the new Tall Thimbleweed is going to seed.  I have to collect some of that so I can get a lot of spring seedlings to plant elsewhere.  Now that I think of it, this is one of the extra benefits of using native plants.  You can propagate them all you want for free.  With the exotic hybridized nursery plants, it is technically an infringement of the patent to propagate them.  How can you beat free AND beneficial to the environment?  The Purple Coneflower transplants are also filling in nicely.  Even the Bottlebrush Grass and Virginia Wild Rye rescues are putting out some nice sprouts.  The new Wild Geranium are looking good too.  The tiny Bloodroot seedlings I transplanted a few weeks ago look very, very small.  Hopefully they too will take hold.  Overall this area is filling in nicely.  I thought it was going to take several years before this would become attractive.  Now I'm thinking by spring, this bed might be looking very good.
Moving on along the south edge of the property, I see a very hard, bare dirt environment that I caused myself.  I really killed this area with my ignorance.   Insisting on using lawn chemicals and raking up all the leaf litter has killed all the beneficial soil organisms.   I'm now bringing life back with the generous use of compost when I planted Red Chokeberry and Winterberry shrubs.  I also transplanted two small Oak seedlings and a small Hickory seedling.  These all are holding up well.  I understand Oak trees are particularly poor at surviving this kind of move.   Perhaps they are small enough that they'll do OK.  We'll see what happens.  Thank goodness I've learned, stopped the chemicals, and am now work with Mother Nature to restore the life I've killed.

Many of the Brown-eyed Susans in the "wild area" are pushed over to the ground.  I'm assuming the deer we see from time to time are foraging through this part of the yard during the night and knockiing down these down.  The Boneset are in full bloom, creating a nice light contrast to the darker woods right behind them.  Still there is no life from the Joe-Pye Weed stalks rescued and planted here several months ago.   The stalks no longer have that green color that was there last week.  Are they dead?  Oh look at that.  There is a nice fuzzy brown and black caterpillar happily munching away in one of the Boneset flowers.  I'll have to look that up later and see what it is.  What's that old Farmer's Almanac saying?  Does this foretell a hard winter ahead?
Boneset in "Wild Area"

Skirting another organic lawn test plot in the back, I move down the stone steps. The Wild Ginger planted here in early summer is struggling in certain areas and doing well in others.    There's a couple of Jack-in-the-Pulpits planted here too.  We'll have to see how this all comes up in the spring.   Several weeks ago I planted two Virgin's Bower adjacent to these steps, tying their vines to two of the posts supporting the upper deck.  Both of these plants are already growing nicely.  I can clearly imagine how beautiful these flowering vines are going to look once they spread and grow up the posts.

A few feet away, the Blue Lobelia are still blooming in the nearby office garden.  Hummingbirds still visit them daily.  The Swamp Milkweed hasn't fared well here.  I'm surprised about that.  Perhaps it's getting too much water from my third and last organic lawn test plot that butts up to it.  The Foxglove Beardtongue has long been through blooming but now the seed is ready to harvest.  I'd sure like to propagate all of these and place in more areas of the yard next year. 

Now I backtrack up the stone steps to the upper deck where I can look down on the Ostrich Fern I transplanted just under the edge.  It is doing OK, but I really want it to take off and fill up this space.  And looking out to the other side of the grass test, I see the a dense bed of Pachysandra.  It's non native and coming out soon.  I can imagine Brown-eyed Susans, Purple Coneflower, Foxglove Beardtongue, Cardinal Flower, and numerous milkweed species to provide life to this area that now supports no insect life at all.

The Cardinal flower at the edge of the kitchen deck is nearly done blooming, but putting up a nice rosette of basal leaves for next year's growth.   I just read about Lobelia and Cardinal Flower not being true perennials.  In the fall they generate this small group of leaves as a new plant that becomes next year's blooms.  I'm interested in seeing how this develops. 

Now I get to check out the area under the bird feeder that has a smorgasbord of natives I've accumulated.  The Sneezeweed is still blooming profusely.  From a volunteer seed collecting session at the Wood County Park's native nursery last week, I now know how to collect these seeds.  The Monkeyflower, Wild Bergamot, and Dotted Horsemint look like they are all ready for some seed harvesting.  The lavender blooms of the New England Aster blend well with the yellow Sneezeweed.  The three Ostrich Ferns I transplanted on the backside of this planting are doing well.

Soon to be GONE - Pachysandra
Finally I move across the driveway to see the small border bed of Purple Coneflower, and Black Eyed Susan.   Both of these area almost done blooming and have seed that looks ready to harvest.  There's a Thimbleweed and a couple of Whorled Milkweed tucked in here, but the Milkweed is not doing well.  This semi shady area isn't the ideal environment for this species.  The Tall Ironweed I stuck in here months ago also prefers sun.  Regardless, they all have survived their rescue and transplant.  Except for the Thimbleweed, they haven't bloomed.  I'm hoping they'll show up stronger and produce at least a few blooms next year . 

I'm sure you'll say my wife is right.  My morning tours aren't so "quick".  Nonetheless, it's now time for a cup of coffee and dreams of what to do next.


Gloria said...

Your garden sounds like it is coming along nicely. thanks for the tour.
The Joe-pye weed will probably come up from the roots next year. We had some sewer work done that when right through a large patch of spotted Joe-pye and it came up all orver the place where pieces of the roots had been. But the original patch has been there for years and just got a little bit wider each year. So it has not been aggressive otherwise.

the Native Plant Neophyte said...

Thanks for the encouragement Gloria. Hope you are right on the Joe-Pye. I really like that plant.