Archive for July, 2007

Mystery Plant…Solved!

I was about one day from posting pictures here and asking folks whether it was a flower or a weed. And then, after two weeks of sitting there with little white buds, the mystery plant bloomed:

Bees love sweet Joe Pye!

The white buds became pale pinkish purple flowers and immediately attracted bees. I read a post by Gloria. Mystery solved! This was the sweet Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum) that I planted 2 or 3 years ago and gave up on after seeing it struggle to only a foot high with no blossoms that first year. This year, it’s 4.5 feet tall and just starting to bust out in flowers.

sweet Joe Pye leaves

Yet again, writing this blog has reminded me that I do not have enough patience with the garden. A lot of these native perennials just don’t look that spectacular the year they are planted, or even the next year after that (in fact, they sometimes look worse in the second year!). By the third year, though, they’re ready to shine.

Oh, and this bed is under a magnolia tree in the 12-foot-wide sideyard, so sweet Joe Pye weed is definitely a good pick for shade! (Notice the tell-tale hostas and ferns in the picture above.) Now I’m hoping it reseeds that bed a bit…so I can wait 4 years for another nice patch to appear.

The Harvest Begins

Second cucumber of the year!

After complaining about my cucumbers earlier, I have now harvested two, with three more just waiting to go. They’re sweet and crunchy – yum!

Late July chard garden

I was surprised to see how well the Swiss chard has survived the summer. You can see some bolting kale in there (along with a volunteer tomato plant), but the chard has not bolted at all. In fact, it’s been growing better as we get deeper into the summer. This probably indicates that it wouldn’t be a total waste of time to plant the chard seeds left over from the spring planting. Time for another round of Rick Bayless’ chard tacos….

Lazy Urban Composting: Part 3 – Bucket o’ Compost!

The compost pile hasn’t settled much in the past couple of weeks, so I decided to dig it out and see what was going on. The compostable plates are showing signs of breaking down, although perhaps regular paper plates would show the same behavior. Despite my decision to keep sticks out of the pile, there was still a fair amount of woody material in there, steadfastly refusing to break down. But hey, I still got an entire bucket of compost!

bucket o' compost

This may not seem revolutionary, but previously I would dig out a shovelful or two in late fall or early spring and that would be it for the year. I’m certainly adding more stuff to it now that there’s a compost pail by the sink and we’re getting loads of veggies from our CSA, but I believe it’s breaking down faster as well. The compost went to the front of the sideyard, where there’s a lot of bare clay and a handful of plants trying to hang on.

Improvements I’m considering are: watering it when I’m watering thevegetable/fruit bed next door to the pile, and maybe even aerating it every so often. I hate watering, though, and I don’t really have any proper aeration devices (a shovel? a rake?) so I don’t know if I’ll change my lazy ways. Hey, if I get two buckets of compost a year with very little effort, I’ll count this a success.

Garden full of purple

Great blue lobelia

The great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) by the pond is starting to bloom.

Purple seems to be the blooming theme of my mid-July garden. The lobelia is starting to bloom, albeit a few days after people visited my garden on the pond tour.


The oregano is putting on quite a show as well. I also have taller oregano with white flowers, but this one is the champion spreader in the garden.

Oakleaf hydrangea - July

The oakleaf hydrangea flowers have changed from white to pinkish purple. The Annabelles are turning from white to green, which always seemed a bit backward to me!

How to identify a gardener

The pond tour on Sunday was fun – about 50 people came to see our pond and chat. It was strange and wonderful to have the enforced leisure of sitting in the backyard for 8 straight hours. Even though I try not to have an overpacked life, I just don’t ever sit outside in one spot for an entire day. Perhaps I should do it more often!

I also learned how to identify a gardener. They are the people who, within one minute of walking into your backyard ostensibly to check out your pond, say “Oh, oakleaf hydrangeas!

Bloom Day – July 2007

big leaf aster
Big leaf aster (Aster macrophyllus) peeks out from between the Annabelle hydrangeas

I must admit that I’m writing this the night before since tomorrow is pond tour day!

Still in bloom:

  • marigold “Durango Flame”
  • snapdragons
  • rosemary “Benenden”
  • lavender “Blue Cushion”
  • tomatillo
  • oakleaf and Annabelle hydrangea (starting to turn green and light purple)
  • celandine poppy (!!!)

Promised in June and now delivering:
purple coneflower
The ubiquitous purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) in front of the Dutchman’s pipe vine

  • purple coneflower
  • daylilies (just the common orange ones)
  • pickerel weed (but not the water hyacinths yet)

Other new blooms:
Culver's root
Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum)

  • spearmint
  • oregano (Greek and Italian)
  • cilantro
  • cucumber
  • Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum)
  • big leaf aster (Aster macrophyllus)
  • lizardtail (Saururus cernuus – in pond)
  • hosta

Unfortunately, the water lily seems to be taking a break from blooming, and there’s nothing yet from the American bittersweet. Just like my dreams of another White Sox World Series, I think I’ll be waiting for next year!

The Edible Garden

first tomatillo

A lot of my posts have been about the pond and all the ornamental plants I’m growing.  Now that the vegetable plants are starting to produce, it’s time to switch gears and let them shine a bit.

I picked up the tomatillo plants at a garden center in Berwyn.  I’ve never tried growing them before; heck, I’ve never seen a tomatillo plant before I walked into the garden center.  The plants are big and sprawly, and the one getting the most sun has had a lot of blossoms.  I’m not sure whether we’ll actually get some tomatillos in the end, but as you can see above, we’re starting to get some fruit.

The Melrose pepper is maybe 8 inches high, and it has a single pepper that is about 6 inches long and dragging on the dirt.  Yes, it’s more than faintly ridiculous!  The habanero, while bigger and healthier looking than the Melrose, has had blooms but no fruit.  I’m sure that it’s the lack of sun in the bed that is at fault, but it’s not like I have a sunny bed anywhere in the garden.

The bush cucumber has loads of blossoms and tiny 1 inch cucumbers on it – I may be zone 5, but I’m definitely behind Carol’s progress!