The mornings are cool now that fall has arrived. The cool mornings actually arrived a week or so before the official fall date. There has been a frost down in the valley a mile away but no frost here yet which means that the gardens are still looking full and lush although there is decline in the air. The afternoons are clear, warm in the sun and cool in the shade, kind of days. When I step out the front door on these warm afternoons there is a loud hum. The oak tree anchoring the entry garden looks as though it has a bit of matted fur all over the trunk and limbs. Climbing high into the branches, English Ivy, Hedera helix, has made a home. Now before you get all excited, yes this plant is invasive and on many invasive lists but here in northwestern Rhode Island it has not spread by seed. Here, it just has climbed high and when it climbs high it flowers. The flowers of English Ivy are creamy umbels which have an incredibly sweet fragrance. Their sweetness is appreciated by the bees. I know there is more than one kind of bee enjoying the nectar. I can see bumblebees and I think there are honeybees but I have not taken life and limb in hand to climb a ladder into this bee haven. I am content to stand under this tree and just listen to the happy hum. These are not the only 'bees' in the garden. In July as I started to pick the climbing beans in the vegetable garden I heard the familiar and angry buzz of hornets. Looking for the source I realized that they had and were still building their nest in the top of the tutuer on which the beans were climbing. My first response was to back away and leave the beans right where they grew. My second response was to purchase hornet and bee killer. I thought long and hard about the implications of applying this pesticide in the vegetable garden. Hornets can be quite aggressive and if I had an allergy to bee venom I would not hesitate to remove these trespassers. But while hornets are not great pollinators they are great predators. Most of us have experienced hornets hovering over a soda can or descending upon the fallen fruit in an orchard but they also eat a variety of insects. I do think there was less damage on all the Brassica plants in the garden this year. The cabbage looper often etches a lacy leaf pattern on the brussel sprouts foliage which does impact the size of the actual brussel sprout. So, I left the nest and have watched it grow all summer long. It is really a marvel of engineering. These critters are doomed anyway since the first frost is imminent. Have you ever left a wasp nest alone just so you can observe what goes on in and around it?
Bronze fennel and black swallowtails, Foeniculum vulgare purpureum and Papilio polyxenes, go together like wine and cheese. Both groups are most welcome additions to the garden. I added bronze fennel to both the long border and to a high, zinc container. The container holds scented geraniums, dichondra and bronze fennel which gives height and color to the planting. It was placed next to the narrow walkway to encourage tactile guests to reach out and 'play' with the plants thus releasing a bit of scent. I may be the only one who actually does this on purpose. I never have been able to keep my hands to my self. It has been a great season for butterflies in the garden. There are many this year of all shapes and sizes and one would think they would be easy to photograph as they just flit from flower to flower but they are surprisingly shy and wiley. Capturing them in flight is a challenge. Not so these beautiful larvae. I do worry about them since their markings are so distinctive it would seem to make them easy prey for some scavenging bird. There are many birds here this summer as well. Indigo buntings, cardinals, tufted titmouse to name a few. That is a subject that deserves its own post. For now, it is time to enjoy the butterflies in all their stages. Are you seeing more butterflies than usual this season?
Last week I was frolicking with the Sandhill Cranes on the golf course in Titusville, FL. My Mom has a winter home there and mid-January seemed a good opportunity to visit with her and enjoy the warmth. Timing is everything. I was away when the cold arctic air descended on much of the country last week. Florida was sunny and relatively warm. When one leaves the garden for a week in June there are drastic changes. In January, not so much. The only major change was to the thermometer. There were subtle changes. The rhododendron leaves exhibit a curling response to the cold and when it is very cold, they really shiver. There was a sprinkling of snow on the garden when I returned. When the temperature dips to single digits it is best to have a heavy blanket on the beds both inside and out.Some things are out of our control and only time will tell if the low temps have caused any major damage. Many gardeners take chances with plants which are on the edge of their hardiness zone. I rarely take that chance any longer. Mother Nature has trained me in this regard. What about you? Do you have any 'On Edge' plants which you are worried about this winter?
High 49 F
Low 40 F
The rye grass in the corn patch must look like quite a delicacy to the white tailed deer. For now, they are content to munch on the grass but as soon as the snow flies and then covers the ground, the deer will start on the rhododendrons and needle leaf evergreens and anything else that they can find. I have friends who are hunters and one has told me that there is very little in the woods for them to eat this year. It wasn't a very big acorn year and acorns are a deer staple. I let Tucker out to chase these deer off to the woods and he sniffed the air while they looked his way. He then rolled over in the grass and took a lawn bath. The deer went back to grazing until I opened the door to let Tucker back inside. They are bold, beautiful and quite destructive. It is time to spray the trees once again and this time I will be adding some very hot, Bhut jolokia peppers! I expect to hear some snorting in protest. What do you use in defense of deer?