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September 2010

August 2010

An honored guest - Monarch caterpillar

To say that I have felt left out is a bit of an understatement.  Other gardeners have posted about their monarch caterpillars, their delicate chrysalis, and the subsequent emergence of the beautiful monarch butterfly.  Not here.  For the past five years I have been checking the wild milkweed which inhabits the fields and the back border.  The common milkweed, Asclepius syriaca, is a host plant for the monarch butterfly caterpillar and, to this date, none have ever been seen on the plants.   I have left the milkweed in the border for the specific purpose of bait.  Bait which has gone undiscovered and unappreciated.  Milkweed is a coarse looking plant with an understated flower but the flower does have incredible sweetness and fragrance and the bees love it.  This year Gomphocarpus physocarpus or hairy/fur balls (warning: do NOT google 'hairy balls') were started from seed and planted in the garden.  This genus has been recently changed from Asclepius and it does produce similar looking flowers  DSC_0063
to those produced by the common milkweed.  My plants are just now starting to produce flower buds and upon close examination of the plants this morning I found not one but four of these caterpillars. DSC_0043
I am delighted, ecstatic.  No one likes being left out or uninvited to the party.  As you can see, this one is eating the top of the plant containing the flower buds.  Sacrifices must be made.  I am hoping that there is a chrysalis in my future but, if not, as least I have seen these little beauties up close.  Have I been the only one left out until now?  Do you have these caterpillars in your garden?

Three for Thursday

DSC_0087Since I have missed Wordless Wednesday, I thought I would give Three for Thursday a go.  Hosted by Cindy at My Corner of Katy, Three for Thursday suggests that your post contain three photos, rants or reviews, in fact, three of anything for a post.  I thought I would share with you three glimpses of this seasons' progression.  In the top photo, this leaf was spotted in the grass this week.  The light levels are diminishing and I see a tint on some of the maple trees which just wasn't there two weeks ago. DSC_0095 

This next picture is of Hailey's pumpkin.  I lifted it ever so slightly to show the EM the etching and the stem snapped.  It has colored up nicely though.  It is a Cinderella pumpkin for our little princess who has yet to pose with Cinderella.  DSC_0091 The last picture is of the longest cucumber yet picked from the garden and two tiger melons.  The cucumber seeds were from Baker's Heirloom seeds and listed as Japanese long.  This one measured 18". They have great flavor and the plants produce lots of fruit.  The tiger melon seeds, I think, were also from Baker.  This plant was not vigorous and was quickly overrun by the Cinderella pumpkins (note to self: plant further apart next year) and the Waltham squash plants.  I did get three fruit which are quite beautiful although their flavor is a bit bland.  The dogs like them though so all was not lost. 


When friends come to August.

August is not the peak bloom for these gardens and with little rain in the past month, the only thing to look forward to are garden vegetables DSC_0020
and visits from friends even though apologies are profuse given the wilting and parched foliage in the gardens.  Gardeners do understand though.  Kris, here pictured in Buffalo admiring the hydrangea which is dressed to match her outfit,  IMG_2310

from A Trench Manicure blog and Blithewold blog came all the way from Bristol, RI and, bonus, she brought her Mom, Patricia.  Now, I know that you know that Rhode Island is the smallest state in the Union and it takes less than two hours to drive north/south or east/west from one end of the state or side of the state to another.  What you may not realize is that Rhode Islanders rarely leave a ten mile radius from their homes without packing a lunch and planning multiple bathroom stops.  I am not sure if this anomaly happens in other states but here, it is just the way it is.  Kris and I are both exceptions to this rule, of course since we both made it to Buffalo and that is quite a jaunt. IMG_2171 Elizabeth's pink hydrangea

As an Interpretive Horticulturist at Blithewold, Kris rarely gets away from the gardens which she tends and bends with her talented, artistic eye and lots of physically hard work but she had vacation days and took one to come visit.  She also brought some treasures from her own garden. DSC_0002

Is there a more thoughtful gift?  I do love a bouquet and this one includes silver eleagnus, penstemon seed heads and other choices from her garden.   It was such a pleasure to show her and her Mom around although I had to extract a promise from her to come back when the gardens are less stressed.  I couldn't even use the line "If you had only been here last week" since all of August has been a challenge.  That is the way of gardening though and gardeners stick together.  There is little explaining to do to someone who, all too well, understands that Mother Nature has her own plan.  This August it is time to take pleasure in the smaller views and the company of friends.  DSC_0030
  There is no better way to spend a warm, sunny afternoon.  

Bloom Day - August 15, 2010

The truth is not too pretty here in Rhode Island as we are in a water deficit.  The best bloomers are those in containers since they get the benefit of daily watering.  I have, like many others, been dragging the hose around but with the vegetable garden in high season, watering it takes priority.  DSC_0013
Still, there are plants blooming but they are definitely showing signs of stress.   The few that are not include the Coreopsis 'Moonbeam', DSC_0011
the 'Knock Out' rose, DSC_0010
and this nasturtium which is planted in the potato bins and which has thrived while the potatoes did not. DSC_0009
The long border has a bit of blooming phlox left to complement the zinnias and the impatiens.  DSC_0002
Annuals are the saving grace of the August garden here at Ledge and Gardens.  The Kirengeshoma is planted in the left front border which is mostly shade and furthest from the hose.  It is in dire need of water as the buds swell and the leaves droop.  DSC_0008
Blue gentian is a wonderful color but a wimpy perennial. DSC_0058
I only have let it stay because I belong to the Gentian Garden Club.  I guess I should have collection of gentian somewhere else but this established plant is so nondescript until the bright blue flowers appear that it escapes attention until it is too late to move it.  The Echevaria 'Lila' is a lovely gray with these pretty flower spikes.  DSC_0016
There are other plants blooming such as Geranium 'Rozanne' and the Bee balm lingers on but this is really the true story of the gardens here on bloom day.  DSC_0017
The Hydrangea 'Tardiva' is not drought tolerant in the least and is looking quite ragged.  I am doing a daily rain dance and considering posting it on YouTube but in the meantime, many thanks to Carol at May Dreams for hosting 'Bloom Day'.  I hope your Bloom Day is full of color and enough moisture to keep plants and gardeners from wilting.

Seasonal reflections - August

A New England gardener recently told me that gardening is his obsession and he gardens in all four seasons.  I can relate although I have not added blankets to the outdoor seating as he has done.  For so many of us, gardening is our compulsion but in more positive terms it is our passion.  I see sports fans as fanatics while I see gardeners as enthusiasts.  Perspective is interesting and I find when something isn't working DSC_0009-1
in life or in the garden, it is important to change perspective, to look at a particularly challenging area from a different angle or approach. Sometimes the area in question will dictate usage as in the adage 'Form follows function'.  And so, I am appreciating the new garden area right in front of the greenhouse/office.  Spring flooding necessitated rethinking the area and three pots were chosen and planted up for this spot.   I truly enjoy the challenge of container gardening. DSC_0046  As the summer progresses, the watering needs of the containers increase and repeat fertilization is also important.  I use a liquid fish fertilizer and you can see that the plants have responded nicely.   I need to do a bit of pruning on these by the greenhouse but pruning is also an anticipated chore and not one that gets as much attention as watering.  If you don't manage the vigorous growers such as this sweet potato vine and coleus, they will (and seem to have here) take over the pot.  DSC_0060
Out with the clippers.
Picking a color combination, choosing the plants to fill the container, and then waiting and watching as they fill out and certain plants flourish in the container while others lazily hide amidst the thugs is a great summer past time.   They initially look so nice and neat. As the heat of summer progresses and watering requirements are heightened with the heat, they explode  with growth.    DSC_0052
The containers by the pool have gotten a bit out of control but, from a distance, add more interest to the area. DSC_0032
I do like the smoldering dark colors for a change.  Did you plant containers this year and, if so, what is working best for you?


The garden in August

The garden in August needs tidying.  There is no way around it, the Lady's Mantle or Alchemilla mollis, is ragged and the flower heads are brown.  Some of the daylilies are well past bloom and yellowing foliage is showing along with finished flower spikes.  There can be several wheelbarrows of debris removed from the perennial borders but, still, August has its' high points.  DSC_0033
The zinnias are ready for cutting and the Geranium 'Rozanne' is still flowering along with the Astilbe pumila creating a nice echo color combination.  DSC_0034
The best of gardening  here at Ledge and Garden in August centers around the vegetable garden as the tomatoes start to ripen. DSC_0056I have around twenty tomato plants and most are planted in the large corn patch garden. Last year was such a big disappointment here in New England as late blight ran amok through most tomato patches.   The EM made some great cages out of four by four grid sheep fencing and they are staked into the ground with an L shaped piece of rebar also created by the EM. DSC_0053  Color is beginning to show on the tomatoes and there is no grocery store tomato which tastes as sweet as one picked straight from the vine.  DSC_0054Even the 'Green Zebras' are showing their stripes.  I do love the Green Zebras.  Anyway, I was careful with the labels and hope to have a taste test on the varieties I have grown.  One big problem is that the pumpkins are growing into the tomatoes and some pumpkins are hanging from the cages.  DSC_0158

Oh well, just one more lesson learned.