Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Going Native: Smartweed

This "smart" weed, which I believe to be Polygonum pensylvanicum L. or Pennsylvania smartweed, adorns itself with pretty flower tufts. It volunteered in my bird and butterfly garden but I moved it to my more "wild" area towards the back of my shed not knowing exactly what it was at the time. It transplanted well and this fall looks quite stunning.

The flowers attract long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, small butterflies, skippers, and moths. Smartweed plays host to several moth caterpillars, including Lithacodia synochitis (Black-Dotted Lithacodia), Lithacodia carneola (Pink-Barred Lithacodia), Haematopsis grataria (Chickweed Geometer; often flies during the day), and Dipteryia rosmani (Noctuid Moth sp.). The caterpillars of the butterflies Lycaena helloides (Purplish Copper) and Strymon melinus (Gray Hairstreak; eats flowers and buds) are occasionally observed on smartweeds as well.

Many birds eat the seeds: waterfowl, gamebirds, and songbirds. I do not see many waterfowl or gamebirds in my village garden although they are nearby. Songbirds that Smartweed might attract to my garden include the Cardinal, Redwing Blackbird, and a great number of Sparrows – Grasshopper, Savannah, Swamp, Song and Tree. In the winter Juncos will eat the seeds.

The foliage and flowers stand up well. I like that this plant is still blooming at this time of year. I think some Goldenrod mixed in with the Smartweed would be a nice combination.

Consider letting Smartweed star in your flower garden if it happens to volunteer. The birds and bugs will appreciate it and I think you just might appreciate the late fall blooms as well. Also consider Smartweed if you have a pond or wetland area in your garden and wish to attract waterfowl. It does prefer a moist soil. Seeds are available for purchase from Prairie Moon.

Sources: Illinois Wildflowers, USDA Plants Profile, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's Growing

Now that the weather is cooler, I sure am savoring every bite from the garden. How I will miss all this fresh-picked produce. I am still considering making a hoop house over one of the raised beds. Hopefully I can pull it together by the first few hard frosts.

I've let my mustard go to seed. I hope to make some of my own fresh mustard once these seed pods start to dry.

Greens, peppers and garlic have so many possibilities. Sauteed up with some white beans pan fried – recipe idea courtesy of Heidi Swanson – yum.

I wanted peppers and boy, do I have peppers. My husband plans to make his own hot sauce with the cayenne.

Sweet Pimento Lipstick
Early Jalapeno Chile
Cayenne 'Ring-O-Fire'

Another stellar basil crop! I've been making lots of pesto and will make a huge batch to freeze for over winter. Pesto and sauteed cherry tomatoes topped with a little toasted pine nuts on baguettes make for a great appetizer.

Veronica Cauliflower is beginning to form.

I have a few soybeans to shell. I plan to make edamame and give a try at fermenting my own miso.

The tomatillos are sprawling all over the garden. I made a batch of fresh green salsa and salsa verde. I plan to make a really big batch of salsa verde to freeze for winter. Nothing will be better to warm us up on a snowy night than slow cooked organic pork (from a local farm), pulled then folded into warm corn tortillas and topped with salsa verde! We tried it the other night just to make sure ...

Quite a carrot crop this year. Delicious raw but also just in time for soup season and one-pot meals.

Dragon and Sunshine Mix Carrots

My parsnips never took off. Two seasons I have tried to plant them. I will be trying a different seed next year. I have planted new crops of lettuces, spinach, radishes, beets and carrots in one of the raised beds (that will hopefully be covered by that hoop house). Something new I am trying this year is a fall cover crop – green manure. Next month we'll see how these newly planted crops are doing. Until then I'll be "stocking up" on fresh produce as much as I can.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's Blooming

We have had beautiful warm weather so far this September with just a few cool, rainy days. Plants are just beginning to turn to autumn and there are still plenty of blooms to be found in the garden.

Volunteer Golden Rod.
Perennial Sunflower, Helianthus Microcephalus blooms among Miscanthus.
'Orchid Frost' lamium beneath Blue Spruce.
Common Beggar Ticks, Bidens Frondosa, and wild aster.
Unknown Veronica (lost tag).
Sedum Maestro
Beefsteak or Shiso, Perilla Frutescens in the potager – great sauteed!
Nasturtium in the potager.
Rose Mallows that reseeded themselves.
Borage that has reseeded ... and reseeded ... and reseeded.

What's not blooming is Exotic Love Vine and Morning Glory 'Scarlet O'Hara,' although both have just about covered the rustic trellis in the potager. I planted these for the humming birds but the blooms will be too late since the birds will be migrating any day now. I have planted two trumpet vines instead for next year, a yellow and a red – perennial vines that should offer flowers by mid summer. The red will cover this arbor, the yellow, the trellis by the driveway.

Exotic Love Vine and Morning Glory 'Scarlet O'Hara' on rustic trellis.
Sweet Autumn clematis is just about to bloom on the front porch.
Moon Flower has been blooming on the front porch for weeks.
Purple Hyacinth Bean is blooming along the drive and on the front porch.
Purple bean pods.

Also blooming are susans, sunflowers, cone flowers, obedient plant and a variety of asters and grasses. I think I'll feature the grasses in a separate post. Garden bloggers' bloom day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens the 15th of each month. Add your blog to the growing list so all can see what's blooming in your garden.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Setting Sun

Fall officially begins in just two short weeks but here, summer blazes on. After a small dip in temperatures and a few cloudy days, a sunny 80° is once again in the forecast. But even perfect weather cannot hide the fact that the days are growing shorter. The sun may be setting sooner but it is putting on a spectacular show, even through the clouds.

I was blessed to enjoy this sunset on the river along with friends and family aboard The Muskie, a classic wooden boat. These beautiful boats are always a welcome site on the St. Lawrence River and really, nothing else rides the river quite like them. If you find yourself in this area I would highly recommend taking in the fantastic sites along the river aboard The Muskie (with wonderful, knowledgeable Captain Jeff), or from the Antique Boat Museum.

A extraordinary summer finale.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Bee and Butterfly

The grackles are gone. I am keeping my humming bird feeders full but their visits are less frantic and less frequent. Last year I wrote on my calendar that by the 12th of September they had left. It is much cooler and leaves are beginning to collect on the ground. I meant to post this short video at some point and I think now is a good time. Just a moment to remember the bee and butterfly. Here, a White Admiral Butterfly and Bumblebee enjoying Joe Pye Weed.

The Bee and Butterfly


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