Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday

Purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, has been a favorite native plant for as long as I can remember. Silly me, when first starting our garden, was lured by some of the coneflower cultivars. I won't tell you how much money I spent wasted on bigger, supposedly better blooms in various colors, only to have most of them die within their first season. I wised up and bought a packet of seeds, had flowers the first season, and plants that have all been perennial in our garden for a tiny fraction of the cost of those long-gone cultivars.

Goldfinches LOVE coneflower seeds. I'm not thrilled watching them pick off the petals, but I love seeing them come to the garden for the seeds, and the swallowtail butterflies and hummingbirds who enjoy their nectar.

Nodding onions, Allium cernuum, are about to bloom. Monica shared these with me when she came for a visit last summer, along with a few other native plants that are happily settling into our garden. The blooms of nodding onions can be pink, white, or lavender. (Ours are white.) They're happy in full to part sun, and are to said not to like hot summers. I'm happy they're doing well here in spite of our weather! All parts of the plant are edible. It's a very nutritious plant that was widely enjoyed by Native Americans and early settlers. The juice is said to make a fine insect repellent. (I'm not sure I'd want my skin to smell like onion juice!)

This is a young Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum. It had a smaller, single bloom spike last year. This year's one bloom spike is a little bigger, but still not as impressive as the candelabra of spikes it will hopefully have when it's more mature. At about thirty inches, it's also much smaller than it's eventual five-foot mature height. Still, it's a lovely plant. The foliage has stayed fresh all season, and shows no signs of insect damage or any fungus, yellowing, or crisping whatsoever. Culver's Root is visited by many pollinators. You can see a list of them at the Illinois wildflowers website at the link above, where you can also see a photo of the blooms on a mature plant.

The roots of Veronicastrum virginicum have a long history of medicinal use by Native Americans, mostly for digestive disorders, and as purifying herb which induces sweating. It's believed the plant is named after Dr. Culver, an American physician and proponent of its medicinal uses in the 17th or 18th century.

Eupatorium purpureum's buds are just starting to turn pink. I divided these plants last spring - not an easy task thanks to their very tough roots. The plants resented having their roots disturbed and looked pretty awful the rest of the season. They've recovered very nicely though this year, although they're not as tall as they were before dividing them. The divisions are doing well in another area of our garden, though so far there are no signs of flower buds.

Also known as Joe Pye Weed, these very large, tall plants are wonderful in the garden. Another native with usefulness as a medicinal plant, they're grown here primarily for their ornamental value and attractiveness to pollinators. They draw lots of different kinds of bees, every butterfly in the neighborhood, and even hummingbirds thanks to their tubular flowers. The pollinator traffic on Joe Pye Weed is truly something to behold.

To see more Wildflower Wednesday posts, please visit Gail at Clay and Limestone, who hosts this celebration of native plants and wildflowers on the 4th Wednesday of each month.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Big Picture

From the patio door in our family room

It's been awhile since I've posted long views of the garden - hope you enjoy the big picture as much as we do!

From the guest bedroom

From the far east side of our yard

East side of the patio border

From the middle of the lawn

Angel's trumpet and assorted pots outside the back door as seen from upstairs.

View from the guest bathroom

West side of the patio border

Our garden is eight years old now. At times it seemed like we'd never get here. The first three years, most of what I planted was dug up by squirrels, eaten by rabbits, or died for reasons unknown. It was discouraging at times when I first came here, planting this gracefully-curved, beautifully-shaded large bed that was mostly empty except for a few struggling hostas, a small group of struggling pink pumila astilbes now long-gone, a thick layer of pine nugget mulch, and a tangle of silver maple, serviceberry, and arborvitae roots.

Although at times I felt like giving up, perseverance stubbornness won out. Through trial and error we've found native and cultivated plants that thrive here. We're fortunate having beautiful, loamy black soil that has been enhanced even further with the addition of lots of organic matter from leaf mold, home-grown compost, and occasionally, some store-bought mushroom compost added to planting holes. Already an experienced gardener when I came here, and even realizing no matter how much I knew there was always more to learn, this garden has taught me more than I ever wanted to know, and for that I'm very grateful.

Friday, July 15, 2011

July Bloom Day (With a Nod to Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan)

This is for you Julie, with positive energy, well wishes and respect.

It can't possibly be July 15th and time again for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day; yet it is. So let's dive right in and see what's blooming today on a quiet street in Chicago's south 'burbs. Not all the blooms are outdoors - for example, our chemical-free kitchen-table bouquet picked up last weekend at a local farmer's market from the booth operated by Homewood Kitchen Gardens, for the bargain price of $3.00. These talented women produce and sell garden-inspired artwork and crafts, chemical-free, artisan-crafted toiletries, sustainably-produced vegetables, herbs, fruits,and even flowers grown in their suburban back (and front) yards.

red pimento pepper

In honor of the Garden Renegade, a/k/a Julie Bass, I'm featuring some charming blooms that just happen to also produce handsome vegetables/fruits. Julie (in case you haven't heard,) is navigating the maze of a Detroit, Michigan suburb's code enforcement and judicial systems, and was even facing possible jail time if convicted of the heinous crime of growing vegetables in her front yard.
. . .

Royal Burgundy Bush Beans

. . . Apparently Oak Park allows its residents to grow flowers in their front yards. . .

Japanese cucumber, 'Tasty Green'

. . . Dear Oak Park, What's wrong with THESE flowers? I think they're beautiful. . .

'Derby' bush beans

Not surprisingly, the village has dropped (Correction: A judge has dismissed without prejudice the misdemeanor garden charge against Julie, at least for now. This means the prosecutor can reinstate the charge at any time. Julie emphasizes this in a new post today, and I wanted to clarify what I initially wrote. Dismissal without prejudice is not the same as dropping the charge.) Public pressure on the village was intense, and their case was shaky at best. Unfortunately it now appears they're harassing the family - the latest is a kerfuffle over licensing of the family's pets. It appears village authorities are abusing their power in what looks like revenge for the embarrassment they clearly brought upon themselves.

'Brandywine' tomato . . .

Kudos to you, Julie, on your first-ever vegetable garden, and for standing up for what you believe in even at considerable cost. I'm sorry for what a toll all this is taking on you, and I hope things will settle down and return to normal very soon. Positive energy is coming your way from all corners of the globe. Godspeed, and may the village leave you, your family, and now, apparently, your DOGS too, in peace.

Here on our quiet street in our typically quiet suburb, I'm feeling gratitude, realizing the peace we enjoy here shouldn't be taken for granted.

Although we have no vegetables growing in our backyard (not enough sun there,) we do have blooms in the backyard . . .

purple oxalis,

coneflowers (For the first time this year, I've noticed hummingbirds enjoying them.)

Geranium 'Rozanne'

fuchsia in a hanging basket (also frequented by hummingbirds)

pansies (still hanging in there in spite of July's heat)

Heuchera villosa 'Mocha' (I love how the blooms glow in morning sunlight.)

Stokes aster

mini-rose and astilbe

Spring Fling petunia, overwintered and blooming for its third season

jasmine - smells heavenly


pink and white astilbes

'Happy Returns' daylily

'Rosy Returns' daylily

tall bellflowers and bee balm (hummingbirds are loving the bee balm.)

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum

'Sunday Gloves' daylily

May we all be free to enjoy the peace, beauty, and sustenance of our gardens, wherever we choose to plant them.

To see more Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts, please visit our host, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.