Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Berry Berry Good!

This year I can finally boast a few berries! Berries attract birds and just last evening a male Cardinal stopped by – a rare, but very welcome, occurrence in my young garden – the cover is not yet thick enough for a Cardinal's liking. Robins are still lingering. Robins actually spend the winters here where there are enough berries and fruit to sustain them. I see them regularly in a nearby state park through the entire winter where there are many dogwoods and chokeberries. (It is the Red-winged Blackbird that announces Spring for me.) The Catbird's calls were closer than ever this year, and more frequent.

My plan is for my garden to eventually offer a natural Winter feast. See, I hope to be able to migrate along with our feathered friends in the upcoming years. The Winters, though beautiful, are just too long here. My backyard birds will be able to feast on berries and seeds still standing in the garden instead of my feeders while I follow the sun. The progress in the garden looks promising.

The wild grapes were very abundant this year. I have seen migrating flocks of Cedar Waxwings enjoying these in the past.

Wild Grapes

Rosa Palustris Hips
Rosa Setigera Hips
Virginia Creeper Berries

Virginia Creeper will attract fruit eating birds such as Chickadees, Nuthatches, Mockingbirds, Catbirds, Finches, Flycatchers, Tanagers, Swallows, Vireos, Warblers, Woodpeckers, and Thrushes through the Winter.

Redosier Dogwood Berries
Cardinal Dogwood Berries
Cardinal Dogwood Berries
Elderberry Black Lace

Woodpeckers, Bluebirds, Cedar Waxwings, Orioles, and Grosbeaks are attracted to Elderberries.

Purple Prince Crabapple

Many birds enjoy Crabapple. So birds, enjoy the berry feast while I feast on, ah, hmm, er ... a bird of a different feather.

I am always thankful for the joy, work, clarity, groundedness, peace, harmony, abundance and enlightenment of the garden and life. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fall Foliage

This fall, I have more trees, though still very young; shrubs that are beginning to fill out; grasses that have become masses and new beds and perennials all with changing foliage and interesting seed heads. Since it is the foliage and not the blooms that is now the star of Northeastern gardens, I thought I would attempt joining Pam at Digging for Foliage Follow Up! (Hopefully, I will stay organized enough to participate regularly in this monthly blog event.)

I like to journal (through blogging) my garden each fall. I enjoy looking back through the years to see how my garden has changed and grown. Here is my garden (forever in the making) this Fall of 2011.

In the Bird & Butterfly Garden you are seeing Evening Primrose Oenothera, Mints (still green), Miscanthus 'Morning Light', Panicum 'Dallas Blues,' perennial sunflower Helianthus Microcephalus, Joe Pye Weed, Forsythia 'Meadowlark.'

Garlic Chives in the Potager
Bluecrop Blueberry in the Potager

A new bed behind the garage workshop. The tree (facing to the left) I believe is an Amur Maple, not native and invasive so I cannot recommend it, but I cannot part with these trees. They were on my lot in Maine and two of them sprouted in a window box I brought with me – just look at this one now. I loved these trees in my Maine garden and keep them because they remind me of my home and garden there. Their fall foliage is always beautiful. Facing to the right, a Red Osier Dogwood.

Red Osier Dogwood

In the new Woodland Edge, much is happening. This Cardinal Dogwood's stems have turned and look rich before the Blue Spruce. In the foreground is the nearly purple foliage of Oakleaf Hydrangea 'Alice.'

Leaf of newly planted Red Maple (here, most of the Maples did not turn red this year)
Newly planted Pagoda Dogwood
Ligularia 'Desdemona'
Maidenhair Fern
Virginia Creeper
Leaves of young Tulip Tree in backyard

What's Blooming

Blooms are scarce. Even the Persicaria's blooms are faded and gone, but I swear I could dig a hole in the snow and still find Calendula blooms!

Calendula and Alberta Spruce in the Potager
Calendula and Gro Low Sumac along the Nice Driveway

If you want to add a perennial vine that blooms continuously, I recommend our native honeysuckle. Just look at all these blooms, in November!

Coral Honeysuckle Lonicera Sempervirens and Skyrocket Juniper

The blanket flower I received from our local garden club during our fall plant exchange is already blooming – it just couldn't wait for next year.

California Poppy hangs on.

Lamium 'Orchid Frost' can take the frost and still keep on blooming.

The Sedums still hold their blooming heads high.

What's blooming in your garden? Visit Garden bloggers' bloom day host, Carol at May Dreams Gardens the 15th of each month to let everyone know. I think I will have to turn indoors to find any blooms next month but we'll see ...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Going Native: Pin Oak

When we moved to our home in October of 2007, our lot contained ZERO trees! I can't believe I chose to move into a place without any trees. Since then, of course, I have planted several trees. Most of them are smaller in stature because our lot is not very large. But I am determined for this lot to host as many trees as possible and have added some pivotal large trees including a White Pine and a Pin Oak, Quercus Palustris, named for its many short side twigs or pinlike spurs. (It is this dense branch structure that makes an ideal shelter for wildlife.) Palustris is latin for "swampy" or "marshy" indicative of the conditions in which Pin Oaks are likely to grow.

According to Douglas Tallamy, Oaks support 517 species. He states in his book Bringing Nature Home, "The value of oaks for supporting both vertebrate and invertebrate wildlife cannot be overstated ... What we have underappreciated in the past, however, is the diversity of insect herbivores that Oaks add to forest ecosystems. From this perspective, Oaks are the quintessential wildlife plants: no other plant genus supports more species of Lepidoptera, thus providing more types of bird food, than the mighty Oak ... A careful inspection of Oak leaves, particularly their undersides, often turns up caterpillars unlike any you have seen before."

This is why I chose to plant an Oak in my garden.

Pin Oaks are readily available in the nursery trade because they transplant well. They are naturally wetland trees with shallow, fibrous root systems, unlike other Oaks, which have strong, deep taproots. My backyard does tend to become a bit "swampy" in the Spring and after heavy rains. They are also pyramidal in shape – less sprawling than other varieties of Oak. A shape that better suits the size of my lot. When mature, the upper branches point upwards, the middle branches are perpendicular to trunk, and the lower branches angle down. Pin Oaks grow somewhat faster than other Oak varieties. I planted my twig of a Pin Oak in the fall of 2008. This is my Pin Oak last fall of 2010.

This is my Pin Oak now. This is the year it has leaped! It has not fully turned yet.

Its leaves eventually become a beautiful dark red in autumn and are the last to fall, if at all. Pin Oaks are known to retain their leaves through winter.

I will be sure to check the undersides for caterpillars next summer! Some interesting trivial facts about Pin Oaks are that black ink can be made from galls formed by insects, and Native Americans used its bark to treat intestinal ailments. Huh.

Its acorns are round but flatten at the cap, which is thin and saucer-like. I look forward to the day these acorns drop in my garden. The jays, grey squirrels, and new resident red squirrel are sure to appreciate them, too.

Pin Oak in nearby Grass Point State Park

The Pin Oak will attract songbirds, ground birds, water birds, hummingbirds, and mammals. It is the only known food source of the Bucculatrix domicola caterpillar, a kind of leaf miner that transforms into a very small moth. It is also the host plant for the Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus.

Sources: Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy, Wikipedia, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What's Growing

With reports threatening our first frost it was a mad dash to the potager and frantic picking. Basil, peppers, tomatoes, were all picked to the bone.

The tomatoes ripened indoors. I should have probably picked the basil a little earlier. It really does not like any sort of chilly weather. I still have pesto for the winter but not as much as last year. I'll have to hoard it.

I no longer have a fear of growing peppers. All the peppers I planted this year grew well. My husband made hot sauce with the Cayenne ... whooo, fire.

Our first hard frosts have arrived. The potager droops. Tomatillos die on the vine. It's time to start clean up and put it to rest. What's left of the broccoli rabe, carrots, kale and swiss chard I'll leave alone. They should grow well into the colder months. I'm not going to have the energy to build a hoop house this year.

Here's where my novelty shows as a vegetable gardener – I did not know I was supposed to cover a cauliflower head with its leaves in order for it to develop. I now have a contorted, monstrous head of flowering cauliflower. It's sort of grotesque yet beautiful.

The cover crops are growing pretty well I think – not entirely sure as this is a new experiment for me.

I managed one last pick before the frosts.


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