Monday, September 3, 2012

Those Handy Wasps

Well, there was nothing worth posting about in August. A very sad summer, indeed. A week or so ago we got our first significant rain (1.25 inches), but nothing since and we're still in an extreme drought up here in northern Illinois.

But, my tomatoes, being right next to a spigot, have done well. They are a jungle, as usual.

And, I have quite the hornworm infestation. I've found several and taken them to the garbage can, but recently they are all looking like this:

 Those handy parasitic wasps have taken care of most of them.  I'll have to be sure to rake up the mulch this winter, and expose any eggs to freezing temperatures. Assuming we get freezing temperatures this winter, what with all this climate change going on. I think we're going to be considered the American South soon :-) It's going to be over 90 today (Labor Day! In the 90's!).

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Drought and Renewal

(Although the "renewal" in the title might be premature --we're just now moving into what is normally our driest month, August.)

So, Carol at May Dreams has been ruminating on drought recovery --for gardeners and gardens. We've been blessed with about 1&1/2 inches of rain over the last two to three weeks. The mature trees seem to have breathed a definite sigh of relief, but the meteorologists say it's not enough rain to move us out of "severe" drought status. Our temperatures have also stayed below 100, even below 90, for a while now, and I can see that the garden is grateful for that relief as well.

So, taking a look around, here is what I see. First, the ugly. (And mind, these are places I watered religiously!)

Even the daylilies couldn't make it here in full sun. Cardinal flower just died away, two coneflowers and a daisy, a peony, a rose, and some penstemon have all burned up.

This coneflower managed one blossom before the whole thing gave up the ghost. Part of the green in this picture is a tree seedling I haven't had the strength to pull up.

This is what's left of one of my clumps of thyme. Again, a full sun plant, and it's just burned up. It's so sad to walk through that garden.

The shade gardens have fared better. Apparently, when the temperatures regularly reach 100, one can only garden in the shade. The green grass in this photo, however, only appeared over the last few days. Before that it was crispy yellow right up to the bed. Really, it's amazing how fast grass can recover.

There are signs of renewal, just from the little bit of rain we had. 

This is a daylily that never had a chance to bloom. This is an area that I didn't really water much, so I was happy to see green tips coming up out of the brown foliage after the rain.

These morning glory seedlings sprung up over night after a rain. A carpet of seeds from last years' plants, just waiting for a little moisture.

We also have two raised beds, one with tomatoes and one with strawberry starts and flower seeds. These beds received almost daily watering during the heat, and are doing fine. I'm grateful that my tomato bed is so close to a spigot, so it's easy to water. The flower seeds Emma planted this spring are the only color in the garden now, and I enjoy looking at them from the kitchen window.

And really, I just can't get enough of green grass. Most of our yard is still crispy brown, but in these shady areas, just looking at the cool green of the grass makes me feel happy.

I am hoping (crossing my fingers!) that this summer will prove to be very unusual, and we won't have to endure another one like this for a long time.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

In a general way, my garden looks terrible this summer. The drought, the multiple over-100 degree days, the deer damage, and being away for only one week, have all combined to create a very underwhelming late June/July garden. Still, although I've lost almost every new plant I put in this summer, I have managed to catch some individual blooms that offered a bright spot here and there. 

Late in June, my bee balm bloomed with some blanket flower disguising it's browning feet.

My Asian lilies have really struggled this year --here is a selection of less than stellar examples of three types in one garden. The orange and yellow is a stunner normally, but I think this was its only bloom this year, and it's all mottled. The other two managed a few more blooms, but their color was less than spectacular.

My oriental lilies did better.

This white lily is downward facing, like the martagon lilies. I bought it many years ago, and I have no idea what it is. It's been a consistent performer, but it's usually paired with a pink of the same form, and the pink only had one stem that bloomed, and it was half its usual height.

I also planted an Easter lily many years ago, after it had finished blooming inside. It comes back every year, and this year it really outdid itself.

I've had good luck with alliums this year as well, and this one in particular I thought had such a great form. I don't remember planting this, but I just loved it. They start with this form:

And then proceed to open all the way, like little fireworks.

They are part of this grouping along a path to our mudroom door.

The other stalwart this year has been the daylily. The foliage has browned early, and during the week that I was gone, the heat and lack of water affected the number of blooms, but the individual flowers are still spectacular.

The daylilies have been really the only color over the last week, and now they are going as well. My rudbeckia has not handled the drought well, and is only about half its normal height, and the shasta daisy has been and gone. I don't know if anything will be blooming next month!

Thanks to Carol, at May Dreams Gardens, for hosting!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Insect Life

We have almost no mosquitoes this year, but the bird baths are full of wasps, landing for drinks. Yesterday, while we were in the pool, this adorable, seuss-like, tiny (1/2 cm?) bug that looked like a miniature grasshopper, landed on the side. I put my finger out, he climbed on and then spent a few minutes drinking the tiny dot of water on my nail bed. I put a puddle of water on the ledge and coaxed him off my finger, and he happily drank from the little puddle. I wish I could have gotten a photo of him, but my camera doesn't come with me in the pool :-)

Here are a couple of bugs I did find in the garden.

This one I hate.

Native bees are always nice.

Bumble bees are some of my favorites.

This is one of our girls, my husband took this picture on a drumstick allium.

Monday, June 25, 2012


At this point, I think I could water 24/7 and still not quench my garden's thirst. This is crazy weather and I really don't care for it. All I do is drag the sprinkler from one garden to the next, all day, every day.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Garden Pest

My daughter stumbled on this in our woods a few weeks ago.

Now I keep finding this in the gardens.

This is the first time I've ever had extensive deer damage. I hope that doe finds another place to raise next year's fawn!

Friday, June 15, 2012


I'm cheating a bit --these photos include things that have bloomed throughout the first part of June, and some of them have now finished blooming. Still, I wanted to share the photos.

Last month was all about iris, but one of my favorites didn't bloom until after May 15th. I just love the color of this orange iris, and it makes a wonderful spot of bright color in the garden.

A flower that took me completely by surprise is this climbing rose.
I planted this rose at least 10 years ago, and this is the FIRST time it has ever bloomed. I'm not sure if this is a result of our warm winter and early spring, and I won't be surprised if it never blooms again, but I'll miss it. The individual blooms had a heavenly scent.

A few of my lilies have started blooming. Kiss-Me-Kate always does very well and brightens up the eastern side of the house for a week or so.

My red asian lilies, which are usually the first to bloom and very hearty, didn't do so well. I believe it was probably the several below-freezing nights we had in April, when the buds were forming. It's disappointing, but I'm sure they'll be fine next summer.

Another lily I'm enjoying this June is a pink and white lily, but I don't remember it's name. It was new last year, and has come back well. The starry allium is in the foreground.

Along with that allium, I have three others blooming now, a yellow, pink, and blue. I love the blue, which is another heirloom bulb I planted last fall, and I'm going to order more of them. This is not a great picture (they started out white and became more blue with time), but it does show the blue color. They are called Caeruleum.

Another plant that I bought at the same time as the blue allium is a white martagon lily. This one is disappointing only because it is the tiniest lily I've ever seen. It is only about 8 inches tall, which means it is completely hidden by columbine while blooming. I just never expected it to be so tiny. Perhaps if it multiplies, it will have more of an impact.

I have two peonies that have done really well.

However, I also had a light pink peony with with a single layer of petals and lots of beautiful yellow stamens, and that one barely came back this year and had no buds. The red is right next to it, so I don't know why one would come back strong and the other not. Should I just get rid of the sickly one? Any advice from people with more peony experience would be appreciated.

A pretty tickseed that I don't know the name of, but it's a bright spot of yellow in the back garden.

Another bright spot is the butterfly milkweed.

One of my favorite flowers is spiderwort. I purchased a pink one, and this year it has finally gotten so crowded that it's not doing well. I'll have to dig it up and split it this fall. However, because I haven't been terribly good about clearing the seedheads, I've now got several blue and purple spiderwort coming up around it. It's a very pretty sight in the mornings.

That's a good round-up of early June in my garden. Thanks to Carol for hosting the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and I'm looking forward to checking in on other June gardens!