Bloom Time

This is such a fabulous time of year! It seems that the entire word is in bloom or about to bloom.

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The Siberian Iris, above, and the one below, are around my pond. I was lucky to capture them with raindrops still fresh on their petals.

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Right now shrubs are taking center stage in my yard. In another week or two it will be roses and peonies (I hope.)

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This is one of my favorites and every year it appears here. This is a deutzia, Chardonnay Pearls. The closeup is below.

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When I took this photo, there were little beetles in some of the flowers. Not quite sure if they were pollinators or not but after last year’s “poisoning,” I am grateful for any life that I see!

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This is a kolkwitzia amablilis called Dream Catcher. It took quite some time to grow to its full potential. Now I have to stand in the street to take its photo.

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This is the closeup of its flowers.

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And this is the lovely clump of chives growing right beneath it. It makes a great combination.

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This is spirea media Double Play Blue Kazoo. Its foliage is supposed to have a bluish cast to it, but it’s in more shade than it should be so it shows up as more green. Still, I am not complaining. This is one of the plants that almost got wiped out by weed killer last year in the great poisoning, so I am grateful that it’s alive at all.

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This is the flower, closeup.

By next week, at some point, there should be a whole different set of glorious plants in bloom. This is a great time of year in the garden!

Ticks and Barberry

If you live in Connecticut, you live in the home of Lyme disease. There’s a town called Lyme where the disease was first identified. Lucky us.

But since that first happened some 30 or so years ago, much of the thinking has changed about the causes of the disease.

Don’t mistake the matter: ticks still cause the disease (and no, since so many of you out there have been afflicted, I won’t post photos of the nasty little arachnid that causes it!)

But for awhile it was thought that deer were the primary host of this tick (hence the name “deer tick.”) You might notice that isn’t the popular name for this tick any more. You will most likely hear it referred to as the black-legged tick (as if any of us examine it that closely!)

Now it is thought that white footed mice are the primary host of these nasty little critters. But it’s even more complicated than that. Now we also have to look at habitat as well.

For it seems that in habitat that has an abundance of barberry plants (berberis sp), the tick population is much higher than in places with few or no barberry plants. Here’s a story our local NBC affiliate did on the habitat issue about a month ago.

Why does this matter? Well, it matters for two reasons. First, barberry is an invasive shrub. It spreads by seed. It is not banned here in Connecticut but many places have banned it.

Many of you know barberry as that low mounding shrub, often with reddish leaves (occasionally yellow) and very thorny stems. It has small red fruits in late summer or early fall here in Connecticut that wildlife love–hence the spreading problem.

But when it spreads to our forests and woodlots, you won’t see it coming up as red or yellow. You’ll just see a low green undergrowth. So you won’t necessarily know that it’s the same barberry that came from the garden center.

I have the stuff coming up all over my yard–presumably spread by birds–even though I haven’t planted any and I have no idea where the nearest plant might be. I try to yank it whenever I see it for three reasons: it’s much easier; it’s relatively thornless; and I don’t want it getting out of control to the point where it might produce its own fruit and create this nightmare all over again. Besides, like so many of these invasive plants, once it’s bigger than about 8″, the roots seem to reach middle earth!

I almost hesitate to suggest that our barberry free environment is why I have so far been blessed with no Lyme disease (I was tested again this fall for yet another mystery ailment. They still haven’t figured out the problem–but at least it’s not Lyme disease).

But given the number of hours that I spend in the yard, I do think habitat makes a difference, particularly since we are wooded, on a deer trail and are over-run with mice (and voles).

If ticks are a problem in your yard, take a look at your plantings. Are any of them barberry?

The Mess is in the Eye of the Beholder

My last two posts have talked about sustainable garden clean up.  What does the garden look like if you do this?

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Here’s what you might see under my hydrangeas right now. Why is this good? All sorts of critters are enjoying this–chipmunks, squirrels and blue jays–and no one’s harming the plants.

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Want some more of a mess? This is what’s under our row of white pines. I counted 10 different bird species enjoying this–not counting the chipmunks and squirrels,  of course.

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And for a real mess, here’s one of the gardens that hasn’t been touched in over 2 years (except of course to be accidentally sprayed by herbicide in that poisoning incident.) These gardens are really dry–we haven’t had any rain for almost a month.

But this garden, for the most part, is usually full of lush hydrangeas so what you are seeing is hidden. Not so bad, is it?

Wordless Wednesday

A friend from another part of the country remarked last week that we have very different plants here.

If I had to describe the quintessential New England shrub, this is it: some version of a  large rhododendron in pink, mauve, white or red. They’re everywhere right now in sizes from about 2 feet tall to ones like this that tower over my head.

They do grow in other places too but they do extremely well here in our acidic soil and normally moist climate.

As a general rule,  they prefer at least partial shade, which most of us have  because we are gardening under mature tree canopies.

And since many of those trees tend to be evergreens, oaks, or maples which compete with the “rhodies” as we affectionately call them for moisture,  it’s a good thing that they tend to be shallowly rooted as well!

Here is a close view of the flower cluster. They are stunning this time of year.

Wordless Wednesday

Usually this time of year,  I have a photo of a deutzia called Chardonnay Pearls on here. It’s one of my favorites and it’s in bloom now.  But I thought I would focus  (literally as well) on something different this year.

This is a close up of some things in the wildlife garden.  The chives are just coming into bloom.  I let this clump bloom because I have a potted clump up by the house that I use for cooking. I have another blooming clump in my vegetable garden.  You might have seen it Monday.

Blooming herbs are not only pretty but they are great for pollinators.  They often have just the sort of flowers that pollinators adore.

Of course if you intend to cook with your herbs,  you don’t want them to flower.  But most perennial herbs are so abundant that you can easily split them, keep a clump close by your kitchen for cooking and plant the rest elsewhere for pollinators.

Everyone wins!